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The Theatreguide.London Review

Scary Bikers
Trafalgar Studio 2   Spring 2019

For nearly forty years John Godber has been a sort of benign Ayckbourn for the Northern working class, sympathetically chronicling the little comedy and little pathos in the lives if little people.

Scary Bikers, in which the playwright appears as well, along with Jane Thornton, continues the attractive pattern while injecting just a bit of political commentary as well.

Fifty-something Carol and sixty-something Don meet-cute (at her husband's grave, actually), and discover that a shared widowhood and a shared love of long-distance bicycling is a good basis for a warm and humorous relationship.

The play is set in the present, with frequent flashbacks, not only to the couple's earlier adventures but to their lives with their lost spouses, all events unobtrusively time-checked with references to outside events from the miner's strike to the Brexit referendum.

The process of their coming together and settling in as a comfortable old might-as-well-be-married couple has its bumps, such as getting lost in darkest Belgium during a biking excursion, and discovering class differences. She's not exactly posh but is somewhat upmarket from his solid working class, leading to awkward moments like her unthinking assumption that he'd be able to afford something.

But their getting to know each other – and our getting to know them – also reveals a shared sense of humour and personality traits that nicely complement each other.

As the flashbacks move closer to the present they and we discover another gap between them as he votes Leave and she Remain. And here playwright Godber shows himself not just a benevolent observer but a shrewd analyst, because he uncovers convincing reasons for their positions that political pundits and TV commentators have missed.

(Oh, and their political differences are nicely bridged when they discover that their clashing positions are generated by a shared source – the conviction that all politicians are lying gits.)

Godber and Thornton have worked together, largely in Godber-written plays, for more than thirty years, and you could guess that they would hardly need a director. But co-directing with Neil Sissons, Godber-as-director makes sure it all fits together, the play's comic, dramatic and political strands remaining part of the same reality, with no grinding of gears as the tone and focus shift.

Scary Bikers is not theatrically grandiose – two people and a tandem bicycle – but it delivers more in the way of warm comedy, warm personal drama and stinging political comment that you might expect from such a small package.

Gerald Berkowitz

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Review -  Scary Bikers - Trafalgar Studios 2019