Many happy returns as Barn Theatre prepares for start of new season

Mary Powell as Liz and Simon Parr as Jack in the Barn Theatre production of Happy Jack in Welwyn Garden City.

Mary Powell as Liz and Simon Parr as Jack in the Barn Theatre production of Happy Jack in Welwyn Garden City. - Credit: Barn Theatre

The Barn Theatre launches its long-awaited comeback season later this month with a gem of a play, John Godber’s Happy Jack.  

With the emphasis on feel-good theatre, the 2021-2022 season is designed to lift the spirits of Welwyn Garden City audiences.

Clive Weatherley, the Barn’s artistic director said: "After a year and a half of being deprived of theatre, I wanted to welcome our audiences back with joy and laughter.

"So I make no apology for assembling a new season that’s heavy on the comedy!”

One of the most performed playwrights after William Shakespeare and Alan Ayckbourn, and four-time winner of the Laurence Olivier Best Comedy Award, Godber is well known for his observational comedies, which have included Up 'n' Under and Bouncers.

Simon Parr as Jack in the Barn Theatre production of Happy Jack.

Simon Parr as Jack in the Barn Theatre production of Happy Jack. - Credit: Barn Theatre

He knows how to write them. "On a good night," he says, "you want laughter and tears at the same time." 

And that’s what you get with Happy Jack, described by the Financial Times critic as "neat, touching and joyously celebratory".

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One of Godber’s early works, Happy Jack is a two-hander drawing on the lives of his grandparents, who lived their whole lives in a small Yorkshire village.  

Ironically named Happy Jack by his wife, Jack is not a happy man at all, but a grumpy, long-suffering character shaped by the hard life he’s led. 

Told in reverse, we meet Jack and Liz in their sixties not long before their deaths and the play ends as Jack asks Liz out for the first time in their teens.

Over the years, we see both the joys and the tribulations of an ordinary working-class couple living their lives the best way they can and, really, Jack doesn’t have much to be happy about.

Cliff Francis, on the other hand, is very happy to be back in the Barn.

Mary Powell as Liz in the Barn Theatre production of Happy Jack.

Mary Powell as Liz in the Barn Theatre production of Happy Jack. - Credit: Barn Theatre

He's directing two fine actors: Simon Parr, a Barn stage regular, last seen in The Railway Children, and Mary Powell, making a rare and welcome appearance on the Barn stage. 

Happy Jack runs from Friday, September 24 to Saturday, October 2 at 8pm, with matinee at 2.30pm on October 2.

Tickets cost £13 and are available from the box office on 01707 324300 or online at www.barntheatre.co.uk

The Barn Theatre in Welwyn Garden City lit up at night.

The Barn Theatre in Welwyn Garden City lit up at night. - Credit: Simon Wallace / MeltingPot Pictures

To ensure everyone's safety, the Barn Theatre has adopted a number of COVID precautions.

A spokesperson said: "We’re looking forward to welcoming you back to the Barn Theatre and have a full season of plays ahead of us.

"In preparation for your arrival, we have taken stringent precautions to keep all of us safe.

"Most of our performances will be sold to capacity. If you would prefer to attend a performance with less audience, we will be selling our matinee and Monday performance to a maximum of half capacity.

"At these we will ensure households are seated separately in the auditorium."

The Barn Theatre is registered with both We’re Good To Go and See It Safely.

If you have any questions relating to the theatre's COVID-19 preparations, contact the venue on facilities@barntheatre.co.uk

The Barn Theatre in Welwyn Garden City lit up at night.

The Barn Theatre in Welwyn Garden City lit up at night. - Credit: Simon Wallace / MeltingPot Pictures

                                                               

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