The Scary Bikers is the seventeenth and latest production from the collaboration of the John Godber Company and the Theatre Royal, Wakefield. It is written, directed and performed by John Godber and he is joined on stage by his long term colleague and co-writer Jane Thornton, together they are a double BAFTA and Olivier Award winning partnership.
From the very opening moments of the play, Godber and Thornton had total command, this two-hander never felt like it needed a larger cast, their well oiled partnership fully engaged and gratified the Wakefield audience and both actors undertook their familiar multi role-play with great comedic effect.
The Scary Bikers tells the story of retired miner, ex security guard and now hospital porter Don. Don meets former private school teacher Carole, at a time when both are isolated and lonely, having recently lost their spouses. It would seem that a new beginning is on the horizon, but a European bike ride on a tandem tests the initially promising relationship. It is a bumpy road when two 'adults of a certain age', set in their ways, spend two weeks together in very, very close proximity.
I seriously haven't laughed as much at the theatre for a long time, this was a raucous ride with moments of side splitting hilarity! Yet, this sharp and witty comedy, juxtaposed the heartfelt and heart warming tale with its intrinsic and powerfully packed nostalgia. Time moves on but deep seated values and morals find change hard to reconcile.
Don played by John Godber, was expertly crafted and the very essence of the working class man in a Northern village, this was obviously created from the writer's personal experience and his character quickly gained a comfortable 'everyman' status to the Wakefield Theatre Royal audience. As a Northerner myself, the character was very much an accurate representation of my own father, from the view point and the mannerisms, to the use of vocabulary and the idiosyncrasies. Don; mainly a man of few words; was the perfect vehicle for Godber's straight talking, gritty, yet innocent one line humour. However, this was intricately woven around deeply poignant monologues of the past, the present and the uncertain future. Godber's performance gave just the right amount of Northern bravado to mask the tinges of sadness that pitted the play. Carole played by Jane Thornton was an equal match for Godber in every way. Her delivery was crisp and her portrayal of Don's wife Jean was comedy magic. Thornton's main role of Carole effectively served to give an alternate opinion to many of Don's viewpoints (as we women like to do) but, the bond they share through grief and the love of cycling unites the two lost souls together. This new comedy is about 'life, love and staying on your bike', in every sense of the word!
The very key to this play had to be the date that Don and Carole set off on their tandem ride around Europe, June 23rd 2016. The very day Britain voted on Brexit. There is a burning question at the very heart of the play, why did areas Northern areas voted in such large numbers to leave the EU? Don and Carole discuss this matter in detail, exploring reasons that may have swayed the local population to vote this way. This is both thought provoking and informative and rather than becoming a political satire, this play holds up a mirror to the society in which we now live in, as we stumble blindly into our new post Brexit future. Scary Bikers becomes almost Theatre in Education and I left the theatre trying to personally find answers for the very questions it posed.
This is a play full of comedy, nostalgia and social commentary and is a must see! You will leave the theatre feeling you have been on a raucous ride around Europe with them, with moments of wind in your hair, sun on your face and more than the odd pothole or two to make you sit up and take notice!
Reviewer: Tracey Bell
Reviewed: 8th February 2018
North West End Rating: ★★★★★