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John Godber tells students ‘Theatre needs your insight’

Friday 26 May 2023

John Godber tells students ‘Theatre needs your insight’

Award-winning playwright John Godber told Acting students at the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts (LIPA) that by creating work for their own generation they can help to keep theatre relevant.

One of the most performed writers in the English language, John is worried new and younger audiences aren’t being attracted to theatre. “Audiences are getting older. We’re in danger of losing an entire generation because of the of the way arts education has been marginalised by the government.

“We need your insight. We need you to respond to the world as you see it. Your experiences are valid. Don’t make work for my generation, make work that is for your generation. I think that’s almost a responsibility for you.”

John, whose plays include Bouncers, Teechers and Up ‘n’ Under, has won numerous awards including, BAFTAS, an Olivier Award and seven LA Drama Critics Circle Awards. He took part in a Q&A with BA Acting, BA Acting (Screen & Digital) and MA Acting students and urged them not to lose the momentum of their training when they graduate. “You’ll come out with all the wisdom and energy of three years at LIPA and you mustn’t let that deflate. Don’t go soft. Make work while you’re waiting for the phone to ring.

“Put something on in a youth club, a pub, a studio theatre, a school. That’s how you stay sharp. That’s what makes good actors, being out there making work. It’s critical.”

John’s extensive writing and directing career includes TV and film work. He devised Chalkface for the BBC and the screenplay for My Kingdom for a Horse starring Sean Bean. His first feature film was his own adaptation of Up ‘n’ Under in 1998 and in 2005 John and his wife Jane Thornton co-wrote the BAFTA winning Odd Squad for BBC2.

After 26 years as artistic director at Hull Truck Theatre, during which he steered the company to an international reputation and a purpose built £15 million theatre, John left and set up the John Godber Company in 2011 with his wife Jane. The company was set up to enable John to continue to express himself through drama and produces and tours new and classic shows.

During the 80-minute session with students in April, John told them the only way to find out whether they could write was to give it a try, “and if you can’t write, devise.” He also shared his creative process, “I like to start by storyboarding a play, I physically write out the structure. If I don’t it’s just chemicals in my head. Then I draw pictures for the scenes and even colour them in. But all the time I’m formulating stories in my mind.

“I still write very quickly. I don’t like to hang about. I wrote Bouncers in four afternoons. Don’t sit there agonising over a blank piece of paper, just get it out. Get it on computer – then you can play with it.”

John’s latest play, the Northern Soul inspired Do I Love You tours this autumn. His Q&A with Acting students follows a visit from Rowan Atkinson in October who led a selection of Acting students in a comedy workshop.