Morris and Jean, a middle-aged married couple, win the lottery. Several times. Their luck, though, only serves to prod at the unhappiness in their lives and, ironically, leads them to understand it. Perhaps, though, that understanding comes too late.
Morris Andrew Morton
Jean Lilias Nicol
Norman Frank Gibson
Annie Lesley Brown
Connie Ali Hill
Vicar Arthur Johnstone
Waiter Lewis Bell
Director: Betty Wilson
INSIDE information told of fraught moments in rehearsal when this play’s numerous (hundreds) of very short lines (one or two words) were proving tricky for some cast members. There was concern that this gently bowdlerised performance of John Godber’s “Lucky Sods” might find itself occasionally, from sheer frustration, expletive-not-deleted, turning the rarefied Little Theatre air an unseemly tinge of blue. The sensibilities of the Lockerbie audience are not, however, offended: everything rattles along seamlessly, and a justly full house is, happily, very satisfied.
Betty Wilson directs rather as an orchestral conductor surveying a score, and, observing the risk of the piece’s attenuating, says, “I’m I not having this", fires in with her cast and ensures a pacy execution. So, we get verve, energy and due concentration of minds, the company’s and the audience’s.
John Godber is a playwright of credibility, and it is pleasing to see the Lockerbie Drama Club tackle something tightly-written and with incisive humour, irony, poignancy and unpredictability. The production stars Andrew Morton and Lilias Nichol - we have to say “stars” because they are on-stage throughout (both together or singly: the burden of performance very much rests on their shoulders and both were ample to the occasion, each capturing a challenging and impressive range of real feeling as well as the overall sadness and bitter humour of their situation.
It’s 1995. The couple, Morris and Jean - she, especially - dreams of winning the National Lottery. And then, one week, prize- money comes their way. Indeed, Jean becomes a serial Lottery-winner, amassing a fortune as the play progresses. With all the luck in the world, as her envious sister and brother-in-law perceive it, perhaps they could be happy. The irony of the play - and, in Godber’s skilled hands outcomes are never easy to guess - is that in ways that really matter - ways that each of them comes more fully to appreciate - the pair has no luck whatsoever - except bad luck.
The audience expects predatory friends and family descending on the (un)fortunate couple: we’re told this happens, of course, but Annie (Jean’s sister) - a typically convincing and nuanced performance from Lesley Brown - and her husband Norman - sensitively interpreted by Frank Gibson - whilst envious, and disappointed by Morris and Jean’s seeming stinginess, seem to accept their own modest lot.They do get their own little Lottery win later - and their own share of misfortune to boot.
When we first meet Morris and Jean they are bickering affectionately, a bit bored and bit irritated by each other’s shortcomings after a lifetime together. Underneath this, however, there is a more profound sadness, which adds a greater depth to the play and goes some way to explaining their different reactions to the string of Lottery wins: they have lost a child and they have never had another. Nothing compensates for this.
After their first win, they go to America. We meet a transformed Jean in a hotel room in LA, dreaming of meeting movie stars. She has a charmingly naive conversation with a young waiter: Lewis Bell’s sole scene in which he excels - impressive accent and all. When Morris's mother dies, another cameo part is proffered - the presiding Vicar - skilfully played with a gentle simpering by Arthur Johnstone. His character disarms by not asking for a huge donation for the church but rather a few lucky numbers - which, in the logic of the play, do indeed come up and see his retirement house frequently broken into thereafter. Morris leaves Jean for his old flame, Connie, lead-singer in the band in which he was the inept drummer the rest failed to sack. Connie is played by Ali Hill with knowing vitality and allure. All the money in the world cannot, however, keep their romance alive. Morris resolves to return to his wife whose own millionaire life has been empty without him.
Luck - or, rather, misfortune, however, has one final cruel blow for them both. Although tempered with ironic humour, this is, finally, a play about emptiness and unfulfillment. It is good to see The Lockerbie Drama Club’s ambition in mounting a play of this quality met with such obvious appreciation by its loyal audience.