Edinburgh Fringe 2013
Jack’s walked out on his job, his teenage children and his wife. What’s a girl to do? Write a book of course. About Jack losing the plot. And it turns out, like many of Godber’s best plays, to be full of humour and pathos.
Jack has had it. Education cuts mean that a close teaching colleague has just got the axe. Jack sees his life’s ambition of using art as a catalyst for change in his pupil’s lives slipping away and so, in a fit of depression, he leaves job, wife, teenage children and mortgage and goes to live in a field for three months. When he returns he can’t remember why he left. Or why he’s come back.
Meanwhile, Sally, his florist wife, at her wits end trying to make ends meet whilst coping with the trauma inflicted by Jack’s departure, starts to write down all the things she can remember about him. Turns out that she’s quite a penchant for words and a gift for making the mundane sound hilarious. And she’s quite a memory too, so this is an opus of some magnitude. Her jottings continue after Jack returns confused, lost and bewildered by the fog of life swirling around him. Soon she has the makings of a situation comedy and a host of people wanting to help her make it. The domestic roles are thus reversed as Sally takes off for the big time leaving Jack to learn the florist’s trade, to try (with noted lack of success) to master the art of domesticity and to cope with the fact that his best friends are now aware of his every foible.
Losing the Plot is very much a play of two halves. The first is full of Godber’s classic observational asides, dry, comedic, abrasive, poignant and downright angry. The second uses the characters to air his continuing angst that society is dumbing down, that the disadvantaged are being excluded from the educational value of the arts and that it is becoming ever harder for those in the lower socio-economic groups to ascend the scale (it is, recent studies have concluded Britain is becoming an increasingly stratified society). But it never gets didactic as the tension bubble is popped often enough with dark and dry asides.
With the backdrop of a lived-in kitchen set replete with the detritus of family life, Steve Huison (Jack) and Susan Cookson (Sally) bring Godber’s words to life in a way that is pitch perfect. Picking up pace and passion as the piece unfolds, the raging soliloquies that both deliver, one in defence of art for art’s sake and the other for writing things that people want to read, provide both entertainment and considerable food for thought.
Good writers don’t waste words and good actors add colour to the black and white on the page. Godber, Huison and Cookson provide as good a master class in both arts as you will get at the Fringe this year.