John Godber comedy is a real tonic - it's on at Scarborough's Stephen Joseph Theatre

John Godber's play is on at the Stephen Joseph Theatre
John Godber's play is on at the Stephen Joseph Theatre

Gym and Tonic is a modern philosophical play that captures the stress of everyday life in one central hub that is endearing, engaging and entertaining.

The play opens in the round with a set similar to one we would expect to see in a spa hotel – comfortable chairs, plants, calm lighting and a table with magazines.

Members of the audience are greeted with deep breathing and relaxation through a tai-chi class, part of many sessions on offer at the hotel, which aims to allow the characters to absorb themselves in mindfulness – a theme common in today’s society.

In this hub of escapism, we are entertained by a married couple – Don and Shirley – who have come to the hotel to try and de-stress and explore a solution to their marital problems.

Through seaweed wraps, back and neck massages, facials and peppermint teas, we see Don, played by Peter Mcmillan, struggling to adapt to mindfulness and how it is a potential aid to him, with the support of his wife, Shirley, played by Stephanie Hackett.

While conversely, we see Ken or perhaps Ben as he is also known, played by Robert Angell, aiming to promote this centre of relaxation, with his keen approach to absorb all forms of de-stressing, from swimming to tennis.

What is unique about Godber’s work in this play, is how he skilfully underpins a current topic in today’s world, through a light-hearted approach, but allows the audience to consider a new definition of mindfulness and what it means to people.

What is equally important in Gym and Tonic, are the hotel staff, who lead the classes, check on the welfare of their guests and also pepper the play with amusement.

Through this joyful undertone in the play, the audience meet Gertrude Tate, played by Jacqueline Naylor – an eccentric rich, old woman who vocalises her opinions to the other characters, from her take on mindfulness, the need to escape and the importance of individual happiness.

Her character is the lynchpin of the play – the character who through her continuous words of wisdom – forces Don and Shirley to re-evaluate their silent marriage.

With Don’s failing connection to mindfulness through his groans and moans on the massage table, throughout his stay at the hotel, not only does this aggravate Shirley, but also prompts her to question what mindfulness means to her as she confides in Ken.

It takes a sense of the rebellion in Don, and the realisation that his 40th birthday is upon him, to escape the hotel grounds to the local


As he attempts to indulge in a couple of cornish pasties, a Mars bar and a bottle of cheap wine with his wife, they appear to re-connect, until she asks him to confront his emotional struggles.

As the play draws to a close each character has revealed their personalities to one another.

Don and Shirley have an open discussion about their marriage, Gertrude talks about the death of her husband and Ken remains placid in his current state of mind.

John Godber’s work is a tonic that perhaps we all need in a fast-moving and changing world – it is endearing, engaging, entertaining and, above all, thought-provoking.

Gym and Tonic is on Tuesday October 15, Wednesday October 16, Thursday October 17, Friday October 18 and Saturday October 19, daily at 7.30pm.

There is a matinee on Thursday at 1.30pm and on Saturday at 2.30pm.

Tickets: 01723 370541 or