If anyone cared to measure such things, they'd probably find that John Godber's signature play Bouncers is watched by more people who 'don't do theatre' than any other. Cast an eye across the audience – or, better still, the interval bar – and there's always a goodly proportion of punters who, you suspect, have been there and done that, as it were, in their younger days.
Although the story could easily be set anywhere, any time, nevertheless – as anyone who remembers the gory glory years of the 1980s Merrie City (including at least one member of the WfL team!) will concur – Bouncers is really a tale of the Saturday night thrill-seekers who descended on Wakefield from surrounding towns and villages, and the big blokes on the doors at Rooftop Gardens and Casanova's whose job it was to keep the lid on the powder keg created by lagered-up lads and lippy lasses out for a good time come what may.
You can make a Valentine's Day date with Lucky Eric, Judd, Les and Ralph when they pitch up just down the street from where it all took place, at Theatre Royal Wakefield, from Sunday 14 to Tuesday 16 February – but you'd better behave or you'll be straight back outside…
Bouncers forms the second part of a John Godber two-hander, which begins with the man himself and wife Jane Thornton performing Shafted, from Wednesday 3 to Saturday 6 February. One of the Upton-born playwright's more recent works, the typically bittersweet story is set firmly in his home village and follows the trials and tribulations of fictional couple Harry and Dot across the 30 years since the end of the miner's strike.
It encapsulates all that's best and, arguably, worst in the spirit of the people and communities where the tumultuous events of 1984–85 took place: determination but cussedness; pride in the past but a reluctance to let go of it; local loyalty but straitjacketing insularity. All these impact in one way or another on Harry and Dot's lives and relationship during the course of one of Godber's most thought-provoking plays.
Powerful yet unorthodox presentations of Shakespearian classics are the stock-in-trade of much-talked-about new company Merely Theatre, which is bringing Henry V and A
Midsummer Night's Dream to TRW on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, 27, 28 and 29 January. They strip each story right back to its essentials and then present it in an unorthodox but attention-grabbing way, including imaginative use of stage space and audience interaction.
In the case of Henry V (Wednesday 27) this includes kitting out the cast in England and France football shirts, while both productions are 'gender blind' – so with each one utilising five members of the company's five male, five female compliment, you might well see a male Titania or a female Henry V…
“X-rated Sesame Street with a hint of Friends” is how Sunday Times reviewer Christopher Hart described Avenue Q, the part-human, part-puppet musical which, following five years in the West End and a sell-out tour, arrives in Wakefield on Monday 29 February for six nights of mischief, bad behaviour and political incorrectness. It tells the no-holds-barred story of a down-at-heel New York street as its residents try to make sense of life and the world around them and, in the words of the aforementioned Mr Hart, “it's brash, vulgar, puerile, sometimes downright obscene, and I loved every minute of it!”. So don't say you haven't been warned (and please don't take the kids!).
More conventional – but no less entertaining – musical fare will be on offer from Wednesday 30 March to Saturday 2 April when Wakefield Youth Music Theatre presents Strictly Musicals. It features some of the most memorable melodies from Wicked, Billy Elliot, Matilda, West Side Story, Les Miserables and, naturally, the show with which these talented local youngsters brought down the house last year, Cats.
This, of course, is only a small selection of highlights from the upcoming season: for more information (including times and ticket prices), check out our monthly previews – you'll find January 2016 here – go to www.theatreroyalwakefield.co.uk or call the box office on 01924 211311.