John Godber comes home

Playwright John Godbar at Wakefield Theatre Royal, to announce a new relationship with his new company, The John Godbar Company.'w4769a112
Playwright John Godbar at Wakefield Theatre Royal, to announce a new relationship with his new company, The John Godbar Company.'w4769a112

UPTON playwright John Godber is heading home – teaming up with Theatre Royal Wakefield for his exciting new venture.

The celebrated writer has set up the John Godber Company, which, along with the theatre, will co-produce future UK tours of Mr Godber’s work, with the majority opening in Wakefield.

Mr Godber, who trained at Bretton Hall College in Wakefield, left his 26-year creative director role at Hull Truck Theatre before Christmas, resigning after the theatre’s artistic director was made redundant.

The new company will tour two shows a year, the first The Debt Collectors, a new play about two out-of-work actors who fall into the world of debt recovery, will open in Wakefield in October.

Murray Edwards, executive director of the theatre, described the new partnership as “a major coup”, and Monday’s announcement came just five days after the theatre celebrated it’s 25th anniversary.

It is the first time the theatre has had a formal production relationship, though it has produced 22 shows since 2003, including a successful production of Mr Godber’s most famous play, Bouncers.

Mr Edwards said: “The fact that we are not just producing for ourselves, but with John, and actually touring is delightful. It will take our name, and Wakefield’s, all over the country and perhaps even beyond.

“Financially this will make a big difference. It will make it more attractive for people to get involved with us. This gives us a creative heart.

“Our paths have crossed at exactly the right time. It could not have been anybody but John.”

Mr Godber told The Guide: “I’ve always felt a real affinity with the theatre. It feels like a little gem.

“I’m not here to dish the dirt on Hull. Hull is fantastic city, but events happened and you have to pick yourself up and move forward. This for me is moving forward.

“Most people are aware that I was born in Hemsworth, a mining community. I originally wanted to play football for Leeds, and I think I’d still get a match now. I got saddled into making plays, first in Rotherham then at Bretton Hall, which was a massive influence on my life.

“Over the last 26 years I’ve spent so much time on the M62 visiting my parents, it just feels right to be back.

“The beauty of Wakefield is the theatre, the constituency, the fact that it’s just two miles from my dad and we can go shopping at Freeport. Art and life can never be that separate.

“For me this is starting again, but with 26 years experience. There’s always a risk involved but you put your money where your mouth it, this is a private and public partnership. One of the great things about making theatre is that you can choose who you work with. Being back in Wakefield feels very natural to me.”

Mr Godber, who has written 59 plays, said he would love to do another play based locally.

The launch, held at the Drury Lane theatre, brought together some of Yorkshire’s finest actors who have worked with Mr Godber, including former Coronation Street star Gaynor Faye and her mother, the writer Kaye Mellor, The Full Monty star Mark Addy, Dinnerladies actor Andrew Dunn and stage star Barrie Rutter.