John Godber’s Bouncers has had audiences around the globe laughing their heads off for over thirty years now, and this production, directed by the much revered, award-winning Godber himself, is a belter. The crowd loved it.
Crass, vulgar, superficially full of frivolous hilarity, this boorish, binge-drinking slice of British 1980’s urban nightlife with its ‘blood, snot and sex’ provides a showcase for comedy, whilst demonstrating considerable affection for what it ridicules. At the same time it unearths depressing truths about British society and culture and our view of personal relationships, providing plenty of GCSE discussion points for students studying the play at school.
From the start, the visual humour in the bizarrely contrasting physiques of the four nightclub bouncers has everyone in stitches. They crease up even more when our four stern, menacing bruisers morph in a flash – regardless of bulk, beards and baldness – into tittering, tottering girls, sporting tiny, sparkly handbags, dangling from their great, suit-clad shoulders.
Out to have drunken fun, they dance and teeter round their handbags, spasmodically belting out the few words they remember of Come on, Eileen. With the actors flipping effortlessly back and forth between these and other character caricatures, the members of our bald, burly, bearded, besuited quartet suddenly become boozy toffs, big barbers, prattling lady hairdressers, youths urinating and throwing up from a taxi, or an oozing slime-ball of a DJ at a disco.
Along with various simulated bodily functions, the banter flies thick and fast, all in cosy northern vernacular, and the laughs keep coming, while, in two short monologues, Lucky Eric contemplates more objectively the lives of the youngsters they meet. With the audience engrossed in these rapidly changing characters and their banter, little else is needed onstage other than coloured lighting, a neon sign, four metal barrels and those indispensable sparkly bags.
The slick teamwork of Rob Hudson as the occasionally pensive Lucky Eric, Adrian Hudd as huge, gormless Judd, Dave MacCreedy as nippy little Les, and Chris Hannon as Ralph, a sort of cross between Peter Sellars and Alec McGowan, works a treat. There’s some nice poetry in motion too: a floaty fight scene brings poetry in slow motion, while Swedish-postman-meets-Swedish-lady-in-shower brings an impressive and hilarious fast motion rewind of a blue movie.
Whether making us laugh or cringe, each of the four actors gives a beautifully polished performance with wonderful audience involvement and excellent flow, all delivered with relaxed, laid back precision.
Eileen Caiger Gray