The annual family holiday used to be an institution until the cheapo package trips took over from a week in Blackpool or Skeggy (or, if you were from the genteel south – Bognor Regis or Bournemouth).
But were they ever fun? Were they ‘eck as like. I seem to recall an endless succession of bickering between mum and dad; mushy peas and greasy chips; trips to the seafront to sink pennies in the slots; being blasted by bitter North Sea gales; donkeys and candy-floss; watching my uncles call the bingo and scary rides on rickety wooden roller-coasters.
Lots of working class couples only had one holiday a year and being thrust together for seven whole days and nights tested the endurance of the most committed couple. Sometimes the fighting started on the journey, sometimes even before the cases were packed.
There’s an awful lot of nostalgia wrapped up in the lovely September In The Rain, John Godber’s absolutely smashing comedy, that opened at Aylesbury Waterside Theatre last night with a cracking partnership of Claire Sweeney and John Thomson.
It’s a two-hander that sees the pair re-live their 40 years of holidays in Blackpool B & Bs. Jack, a Yorkshire miner, and Liz, probably do love each other but they just can’t help rubbing each other up the wrong way.
She nags (god, how she nags!) but then she is from Liverpool. Jack just wants a quiet life. Sit in a deckchair, hankie on head, trousers rolled up, and read a book, that’s his idea of a break. Perhaps treating himself to a pint and a 99 ice cream.
They try the tower (scarily high), they walk along the seafront, and they endure the big dipper. In-between their lifetime’s romance is peppered with northern grit.
“Jack, will yer hold me ‘and?” wails Liz. “No! Gerroff woman!” growls Jack.
Thomson’s Jack reminded me of the late lamented Corrie favourite Jack Duckworth (and yes, I know he was from Lancs). Flat cap, bit of a belly from too much beer, and a salt of the earth (I wouldn’t be surprised if he kept pigeons too).
The TV actor seems right at home on the stage and has an easy rapport with the audience. He’s also a gifted comedian and a great character actor.
And yes, there is a bit of Vera in Claire Sweeney’s Liz, though perhaps she’s a little more refined. Claire, who was superb in in the recent stage run of Educating Rita, has grown into a fine and versatile performer since her early days as a soap star in Brookside.
She expertly ages, in the blink of an eye, by donning glasses and headscarf, book-ending the play as an old lady. Once discarded, she’s a vibrant blond with an eye for the resort’s young men and for impersonating some of the characters they have met on their trips.
Together Jack and Liz weather the years and the rows and talk to the audience during a 100 minute trip down memory lane.
September In The Rain is a charming night’s entertainment that beats October in Cleethorpes into a cocked hat.
Running until Saturday. For tickets (and I would really recommend it) call the box office 0844 871 7607 or go online www.atgtickets.com/aylesbury.