Yorkshire Times
Weekend Edition
Mike Tilling
Arts Correspondent
1:00 AM 13th February 2024

Do I Love You – John Godber

(L-R) Emilio Encinoso-Gil, Martha Godber, Chloe McDonald 
Photo: © Ian Hodgson
(L-R) Emilio Encinoso-Gil, Martha Godber, Chloe McDonald Photo: © Ian Hodgson
Yet again, John Godber lifts the lid on a world few of us know anything about: Northern Soul. In a long list of plays, he has introduced us, among others, to Bouncers and Teechers. Here, he uses three devotees: Kyle (Emilio Encinoso-Gil), Sally (Martha Godber), and Nat (Chloe McDonald) to fill out our perception of a very British sub-culture.

The people steeped in the music, the dance moves, and the fashion will probably find the general ignorance unfathomable, but then we have all experienced indifference from others who do not share a passion for train spotting, the Klingon language, or the films of Geraldo. It was not until I saw Kyle in a polo shirt, half-mast trousers, and baseball cap that I recalled anything about Northern Soul at all. However, it seems that the enthusiasts are advancing in years. Kyle comments that on one occasion he saw more asthma sprays on a table than cans of lager.

We learn that the three characters have not so much been failed by the education system as channelled into unsuitable life choices. They find themselves bereft when they leave college. There are vague ambitions to train in various careers, but they come to nothing. They all fall into the trap of jobs that make no use of whatever skills they have and make no demands on intellectual capacity.

Still, they have the music of Northern Soul and each other as reliable sources of support. There is a glitch that challenges their relationship when Kyle has a ‘one-off’ with Sally and Nat realises how much he means to her. There is a confrontation, and Nat seems to withdraw into herself.

(L-R) Emilio Encinoso-Gil, Chloe McDonald, Martha Godber 
Photo© Ian Hodgson
(L-R) Emilio Encinoso-Gil, Chloe McDonald, Martha Godber Photo© Ian Hodgson
They drift further into that social glue of the Northern Soul scene: the all-nighter. And it is there that Nat encounters the 68-year-old Keith, who admits having spent more time in prison than out. However, he illuminates for Nat the honesty and integrity demanded by Northern Soul. It is an epiphany for her. From then on, Nat takes the whole movement seriously—it is not just for an evening’s entertainment; it is a way of life. She carries the other two with her in perfecting their own dance styles, and the evening ends with spectacular routines far distant from the stuttering steps of the first half of the show.

The story of people finding fulfilment outside the mainstream of human activity is not unique. I do not mean to insult Northern Soul followers, but Do I Love You puts me in mind of Saturday Night Fever, where John Travolta’s Tony sells paint by day and is a dance god by night.

This is John Godber in top form: funny, enlightening, and celebrating human diversity.

Keep the faith.

Do I Love You – John Godber
Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough