Bouncers

Wed 16th – Sat 19th November 2011

reviews

Michael Beale

at 02:28 on 17th Nov 2011

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I'm a huge fan of John Godber's play Bouncers. I've seen it before, I plan to see it again and certainly I would see this performance of Bouncers again. The timing, energy and dedication to the depiction of character by the cast made it an enjoyable experience all round.

Bouncers takes place in the grim nightclub scene of the North (a horrible image I know) and it acts as a homage to the seediness of nightclub life and those who experience it and those who work with it. Taking the audience from pre drinks with the lads to hair dressing with the ladies this almost sketch like play never fails to entertain yet also depress. It requires a remarkable amount of skill to make effective, otherwise it simply looks like four guys messing around on a stage. The stage itself was reminiscent of a night out: fag ends on the floor, flyers by the truckload, empty bottles. From the moment the audience walked in the door the atmosphere was changed and when combined with the music and the tough stances of the bouncers, it almost appeared menacing.

Of course the play is nothing without the characters: Judd [Barnaby Lynch], Ralph [Richard Hill], Lucky Eric [Jack Plant] and Les [Ziad Samaha]. Each of these performers dived into what was needed as a character. Richard Hill was capable of seamlessly moving from a flirtatious (disturbingly sexy) woman to well endowed northern lad. Barnaby Lynch entertained the audience with a comically genius tap dance across the bathroom floor. Ziad Samaha played the aggressive yet suave bouncer with considerable aplomb. Yet, the whole play is not all about comedy and this is where the character of Lucky Eric comes in: the disenchanted Bouncer who has seen enough of the world to be sick of it and Jack Plant played the reflective moments excellently, changing the mood with a click of his well dressed fingers. His speeches were well paced and delivered with the perfect dark tone of a man sick of the world in which he inhabits. Together, these four characters produced a delightful spectrum of moods, ridiculous enough to keep the audience happy.

There were a few short comings in the performance however. Occasionally the energy seemed to drop in between scene changes and these pauses left an uncomfortable silence which seemed contradictory to the humour of the moment. There were also times when there was no discernible difference between characters of the actor, which, given that the actor is required to play at least four characters can get extremely confusing. Otherwise, the performance was well performed, well directed and is certainly worth a watch.

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Zoe Apostolides

at 10:03 on 17th Nov 2011

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Sometimes – and it’s a rare occurrence – you can tell something’s going to be good as soon as the actors walk on stage. I felt like I was in, perhaps not safe, but capable hands from the moment the audience were admitted to the O’Reilly – strictly on a handstamp basis, watched over by the cast as we made our way to our seats. Bouncers is bloody good fun – you’ll sit down to blaring loud music, cigarette butts strewn across the theatre and a sense that everything is about to Kick Off. So seldom do audiences have the pleasure of watching a small cast capture the essence of a script so resoundingly.

It’s a testament to the text itself, written in 1977 by John Godber, that it manages not to seem in the slightest bit dated. It is in essence a comedy, but is interspersed with snatches of consciously ironic ‘social comments’ which make for “a nightmarish vision of the disco world”. It is at once cripplingly funny, whilst managing to retain themes and observations which still apply today. In this way, we’re presented with a whole host of different characters and, by extension, classes. The actors are forced sharply between good-time-gals Maureen and ‘plain Elaine’ to the hysterical (and sadly easily identifiable) ‘rah!’ mix of Rupert and Hugo: “I sconce anyone whose father was done for ministerial expenses!” It goes without saying that Bouncers relies on a supremely versatile cast, and director Max Mills has certainly delivered this in the form of Richard Hill, Barnaby Lynch, Jack Plant and Ziad Samaha. It’s obvious they’ve all worked immensely hard on building a stage rapport that transcends the diversity of people they are asked to represent. Richard Hill as Ralph deserves particular mention for an excellent sense of comic timing and a really precise delivery of hilarious facial expressions, twisting the audience round his finger with each line.

My one criticism applies to all four members of the cast, and it involves a very occasional muffling of speech, which leads to throwaway lines which could have a much greater dramatic and comic potential: speak up at all times! This aside, there were at least a dozen moments when I almost fell off my seat laughing – one of these (no spoilers) is set in a lads-on-the-town taxi ride home, a scene carried out superbly enough to make the playwright proud. Another personal highlight – and one the audience seemed to enjoy – is a riproaring visit to the local video shop to purchase such gems as Schindler’s Fist and Lawrence of Alabia. It’s scenes such as this which highlight the pervading dichotomy of Bouncers: the sense of young men desperate to maintain an image whilst suffering bouts of self-realisation. In this way, the character of Lucky Eric (brilliantly portrayed by Jack Plant) serves to remind us that yes, it’s a comedy, but what we all forget is that bouncers – wherever we are and however invincible alcohol has made us think we are – have the pleasure of seeing us at our most vulnerable. Truly great theatre: don’t miss out.

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