What do two strangers stuck on a tandem bike in the middle of a foreign country talk about? Brexit of course.
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The contentious topic and the humorous concept of two characters who are ‘chalk and cheese’ was the inspiration for John Godber’s play The Scary Bikers, which will hit Preston’s Guild Hall on March 12 and 13.
John says: “Where I live, in Hull, most people voted to leave. I was trying to recognise why most people in the north voted to leave when most of them didn’t vote for the Conservative government.
“So I have two people on opposite sides of the political fence who are on a tandem. There is potential comedy here, questioning how far we can trust politicians who lead a referendum and how we would have thought that their questions and points would be solid.
“It’s not po-faced but shows how disappointing it is when dreams and aspirations are not fulfilled.
“It is about isolation, as in England as an island and the fact we have voted out of the EU.
“It tells the story of a couple who don’t know each other, but met because they lost a partner.
“It is about how they come together. The woman used to work in a private school and the male character was a former coal miner. They are like chalk and cheese.”
The playwright breaks away from tradition by starring in his own production, alongside his wife of 35 years, Jane Thornton.
He says: “I tend not to act but when I do, it is with Jane.
“I wanted to be on stage to bring authenticity to the role. I can never be James Bond but I can be a retired coal miner.
“The great thing about working with someone you know is that you can trust them.”
Despite the fact the two-hander play features John and Jane riding a tandem bike, the 61-year-old admits he is not a keen cyclist.
He says: “I had a paper round as a kid and I went to school on a bike for six years.
“I do have a bike but I had never been on a tandem before. I am making up for lost time now as every night I am on a tandem.
“It is quite odd as I am 6ft3” and my wife is 5ft1” and so the tandem has to fit us both. It suits neither of us as it is not big enough for me but too big for Jane.”
John has always had a passion for conveying his message through the arts.
He began his career, training as a teacher of drama at Bretton Hall College.
He then became head of drama at Minsthorpe High School, where he was a former pupil.
Whilst there, he taught Doctors actor Chris Walker and Adrian Hood, who later went on to star in Preston Front and Up ‘n’ Under film.
As well as writing for Brookside and Grange Hill, he became creative director at Theatre Royal Wakefield in 2011 and set up The John Godber Company as its resident company.
He adds: “It is my way of understanding the world. I want to communicate what I think about the world to other people.
“I am very fortunate to be able to do what I want to do.”
John has certainly found a way to communicate to the world as according to a 1993 survey for Plays and Players magazine, he is the third most performed playwright in the UK, after Shakespeare and Alan Ayckbourn. In 2005 he won two BAFTAs for Odd Squad, written and directed on location in Hull and screened by BBC children’s television. His plays are performed across the world, Bouncers (1977) being the most popular.
John adds: “It is not something I research or can confirm. I just get on with it.
“But my plays are performed all over the world and some are in the GCSE and A level syllabus.”
John is now ready to perform at Preston, a place he claims to know well.
He adds: “I know Preston well as I have friends who live here.
“I used to go on holiday to Blackpool every year for the first 20 years of my life.
“I am very much looking forward to perform in Preston. I am sure the audience will notice my humour.”
The Scary Bikers is at Preston Guild Hall on March 12 and 13.
For tickets, from £18.50, call 01772 80 44 44 or visit http://www.prestonguildhall.co.uk/shows/scary-bikers/