“Sunny Side Up!” is the latest play by playwright John Godber. Written during lockdown, the play centres around a B&B in the seaside resort of Sunny Side, as they cope with an influx of guests thanks to many more people choosing to holiday in the UK. With lots of topical references, multi-role and plenty of laughs, this is classic John Godber – and that’s not a bad thing.
I went to see “Sunny Side Up!” with Becky on Thursday night at Mansfield Palace Theatre. The cast included John Godber himself, alongside his wife Jane Thornton and his daughter Martha Godber. Having originally been written as a one-act play during lockdown, the play had been expanded to two acts for this tour, with the family cast able to rehearse in a bubble.
The cast members were very adept at changing between characters, with each of them playing at least three different characters. In particular, Jane Thornton managed to change her mannerisms so much that I sometimes had to do a double take to make sure there weren’t two different actresses playing the roles of Tina and Sue. Martha Godber had the most character changes, and played the widest range of roles.
As always with John Godber plays, underlying the tale were some serious messages. One particular stand out scene involved retired university teacher Graham meeting local Sunny Side resident Becky, where she accused him of looking down on her and just “making do” with Sunny Side whilst the restrictions prevented him from holidaying elsewhere. Graham was quick to argue back that he’d started out the same as Becky, and yet used his opportunities to make something of his life. The way the scene was written, and acted, meant that it was unclear which characters we were meant to root for – but that’s the point. With Godber’s plays, it’s never black and white. The characters are real, and as such, each one has flaws.
Completing the family affair was daughter Elizabeth Godber, who took on the role of stage manager for the production. The staging itself was fairly basic, with excellent use of props to give the idea of classic seaside B&B. The soundtrack was also very catchy, featuring tracks such as “Summer Holiday” and “Sunny Afternoon”, filling in spaces between scenes whilst the actors changed costume, and bringing back memories of family holidays on the UK coast.
Overall, not a lot happens in this play, and that’s fine. There doesn’t need to be a huge, complicated plot that makes your jaw drop – this is a play that is filled with real people, and that’s all that it needs. One of my theatre highlights so far this year.
The tour of "Sunny Side Up!" continues throughout October. See the website below for more details:
Tom Morley, September 2021