Stars explained: * A production of no real merit with failings in all areas. ** A production showing evidence of not enough time or effort, or even talent, and which never breathes any real life into the piece – or a show lumbered with a terrible script. *** A good enjoyable show which might have some small flaws but has largely achieved what it set out to do.**** An excellent show which shows a great deal of work and stage craft with no noticeable or major flaws.***** A four star show which has found that extra bit of magic which lifts theatre to another plane.
Half stars fall between the ratings

Suit, ties and no trainers!

Bouncers 1990s Remix

Swan Theatre Amateur Company

Vesta Tilley Studio, Swan Theatre, Worcester


IT was 38 years to the day earlier this month that John Godber’s Bouncers, his second play, premiered at the Edinburgh Fringe performed by Godber and another student from Bretton Hall College just outside Wakefield, where Godber trained as a drama teacher.

And 66 plays later Bouncers and its remix offspring are still Godber’s most performed plays. The remix brings the original series of parodies and snapshots of a single night on the door of a disco forward 20 years to the 90s, a rewriting, updating and expanding of the original.

The cast of four are asked to play more than 20 characters who frequent the disco and club scene. The result is a funny, witty and at somehow depressing picture of a night in clubland in just about every town and city in the country.

There are the lads on the pull with a mission to sink as many pints as they can before going clubbing filled with lager and lust, then the girls dancing godberaround their handbags who earlier had been giggling about their night of clubbing to come to celebrate a 21st under the dryers with their gay hairdresser.

Then there is Sexy Suzy, who has sex in the early hours among the rubbish round the back of the club while eating a pizza – pepperoni if you are into that sort of thing.

John Godber, whose plays are the most performed in Britain after Shakespeare and Ayckbourn

There are punks, Hooray Henrys, stag nights, and the bouncers themselves, who let in or bar people by a set of arbitrary rules which bear no relationship to logic and seem to depend on mood.

The four at Mr Cinders, the best club in town by some accounts, are led by Lucky Eric played by the ever reliable Keith Thompson who cleverly balances the outward brutal hardness of the bouncer with the sensitivity of the bloke beneath, creating perhaps the only character you actually care about, the only one you know anything about, the one whose wife leaves him and who sits alone all day in his empty flat waiting for something to happen.

His four speeches are the only real insight into any of the characters. We hear of his despair at young girls spending all they have to go clubbing, getting drunk and be taken advantage off by men. We hear of his concern at over 25s nights when the lager louts prey on older women – including his wife –  and he tells of a drunken young girl being taken advantage of in a crowded pub at Christmas and then of the wet t-shirt nights at the club and how he feels like giving it all up and going home to listen to Elvis Presley.

Eric is a breakdown waiting to happen.

Then there is Judd, played by Chris Isaac in the grimacing angry faced manner Kent Walton would have appreciated as one of wresting’s pantomime baddies. Judd is two brain cells short of being a psychopath who sees his role of bouncer as more pugalistic than public relations, an enforcer rather than peacekeeper. He has a penchant for pornography and nutting people and has a dangerous habit of goading Eric about his errant wife at every opportunity. Isaac also pitches in the gay hairdresser and a gent's barber whose grasp on sanity is somewhat loose.

Les, played by Nicholas Snowden is another who sees his role as bouncer as the bringer of shock and awe upon club customers and who, as drunken Kev on the pull, ends up in a dance with Isaac as the very drunk Elaine at the end of the night, when  we all know “only the ugly ones are left”. Elaine wants to keep hold of Kev, her trophy for a night of booze and dreams, Kev makes his feelings about her very clear in a vicious explosion of name calling bringing on a drunken brawl, a common finale to an evening of . . . fun, frolic and froin' up. Eric reckons Les’s brain is only painted on.

Then there is Ralph, played by Michael King, who doesn’t look like a bouncer and seems too sophisticated and, dare we say it, too intelligent to be a bouncbouncerser until we see his sinister side as the cigar smoking depraved DJ Michael Dee or the club’s resident slapper, Sexy Suzy. The description of the barely conscious, drunken Suzy eating cold pizza during a mechanical, emotionless coitus is one of the most disturbing of the play – a stark picture of empty lives.

Guardians of the disco: Lucky Eric (Keith Thompson), right, Judd (Chris Isaac), Ralph (Michael King) and, far left, Les (Nicholas Snowden)

As a play it would seem simple to stage, four actors, no scenery so no scene changes and limited props, but that has its own pitfalls in that the actors have it all to do to keep audience interest for an hour and a half or so, not the easiest task in a small studio.

But the cast of four manage it in style as the bouncers bored to tears, standing in the cold night air talking about sex, women, porn and violence who switch at the drop of a hat to drunken louts to giggling girls, hairdressers, DJs and a whole cast of characters that make up the vacuous world of clubbing.

Helen Tippins, the director, and choreographer, has added some nice touches and keeps things moving along at a good pace.

Almost 40 years on the bouncers, now a set schools text, are still giving us laughs and cause for thought at how little has changed in late night town centres. To 29-08-15

Roger Clarke


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