Northern Soul has returned to Blackpool with John Godber’s new play, Do I Love You, which was enthusiastically received at the Grand Theatre Studio on its opening night. Clive Stack shuffled along.
The Studio, an intimate performance space at the back of the main theatre, was just the right venue for this minimalistic, yet lively and thoroughly entertaining play about the Northern Soul scene.
If you like John Godber, this was Godber back at his very best – a play with elements of Bouncers and Teechers with their direct address to the audience, energy and comedy.
Three twentysomethings, Sally, Nat and Kyle, from Hull develop a love for Northern Soul and find themselves, for want of something to do, at an all-nighter in Cleethorpes. They are mesmerised by the stomping, gliding and sliding of the dancers and the heavy beat of the soulful music and are not put off by the fact that the majority of the enthusiasts are well over 60.
They make it their mission to learn the dances so they can spin, shuffle and kick with confidence with the best of them at the pinnacle of Northern Soul events – the Weekender at Blackpool’s Tower Ballroom.
The trio of young Northern Soul devotees was excellently played by Martha Godber (the playwright’s daughter), Chloe McDonald and Emilio Encinoso-Gil. They stayed on stage throughout the performance, occasionally becoming different characters, and danced their way through slick transitions as they set the stage for the next scene, keeping the play moving at a fast and energetic pace.
Many of the Northern Soul classics were played throughout the production which had the audience tapping their feet and wishing they could still carry out the dance moves they did in their 20s.
Though there were only three actors, they managed to expertly convey a busy fast-food restaurant (where they worked despite being graduates), crowded buses, and lively night clubs where the dancing took place, so that the audience had no problem imagining the stage was full of people. The direction, as you would expert from Godber, was precise and polished. This play was foremost a celebration of Northern Soul but Godber, in typical fashion, also makes some astute political digs.
And then there was the music, of course! Many of the Northern Soul classics were played throughout the production which had the audience tapping their feet and wishing they could still carry out the dance moves they did in their 20s. The three actors learnt the dances for the play but looked like they had been dancing Northern Soul all their lives, especially Martha Godber, who had a natural talent for this unique style of dancing.
Do I love You has been billed as Northern Soul for a new generation, but the small but packed auditorium was largely made up of the over 60s, including myself, reminiscing our lost youth when our now dodgy knees could hold up for hours of dancing on the floor! The play has something of a niche market, which is a shame, because this production deserves a much larger audience. Perhaps with such talented young actors keeping the faith, Northern Soul will find a new generation after all. I hope so! I enjoyed it immensely.
Do I Love You is at the Grand Theatre Studio until Saturday 23rd September. Book tickets here.
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