Bouncers: In the Gutter & Loving It

Monday 25th March 2019 at Harrogate Theatre.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Ah, Bouncers. A classic and a solid gold vehicle for actors looking to show off their versatility. The John Godber Company do justice to the play as a classic of the 80s but Godber, who also directs, has worked hard to update it, with music choices, dance moves and pop culture references all attuned to current tastes.

As the title suggests, the show looks at one night in the lives of four Bouncers, Judd (Peter McMillan), Ralph (Lamin Touray), Les (Duncan Riches) and Lucky Eric (Frazer Hammill) manning the door of a typical club. This cast is a markedly young vision of the characters and the whole production feels geared towards youth. Renowned for its multi-roling dynamic, the play requires the cast to play the central roles of the Bouncers as well as groups of punters – including lairy lads out on the pull and a gaggle of very tipsy girls…also out on the pull. 

This cast is a great ensemble and there’s as much of note in their physical performances as in their ability to land a one liner or play a cracking scene. Hammill manages a unique comedy all his own by sporting a magnificent beard completely incongruous as he plays his female counterpart (I mean, they’re all in suits but somehow the beard is just funnier) and gives a wonderful performance battling Lucky Eric’s bottomless pit of grievances and pent up rage. 

Touray impresses most in his female role, really going to town on the princess on the piss trope while McMillan’s female role delights through some excellent but simple physicality. Riches is the stand-out here, making each and every role shine with maximum energy and some brilliant flair with physicality – there’s never a dull moment when a character of his is leading.

Lynette Pickering’s Choreography is a brilliant highlight, with our four fellas regularly interrupting the action to strut their stuff – a rich source of comedy as well as a means of padding out the play. The whole production is very sharp, with the blokes moving in perfect unison (or canon, as required…) and with impressive precision. Segues and transitions are very nicely done and in spite of excessive and needless trips behind four columns during transitions, the production keeps up a great pace.

The laughs come thick and fast as soon as this cast bring the filth like all those who’ve taken on the roles before them, but there are times when this particular ensemble push the physical comedy to new levels of awkward hilarity as they grope and grind away with knowing twinkles in their eyes.

Yet as much as Godber’s play sits in the gutter grinning up at the grimy shenanigans all around, there are glimpses of melancholic social commentary delivered by Lucky Eric in various speeches. It’s almost like Puck: this kind of stuff may be making your stomach turn a little, but we’re just here to entertain, and yes, we know that all of these borderline feral  goings on are only mildly disguising some real issues, but hey, we’re here for the laughs so take it all with a pinch of salt…and a lime…and a shot!

This is a well updated production which stays true to the broken-filtered glory of the story while also seeking to appeal to new audiences by hitting the script with 2019 revisions. Graham Kirk’s club strobe lighting and near-fluorescent backdrops place us in the epicentre of any city centre club scene and it’s against this vibrant artificial vision that our characters take centre stage to thrill and appall. If you’re out for laughs and a few surprises, get yourself to the show – just, y’know, maybe leave the grandparents at home if they’re not the ‘hip’ kind!

This production of Bouncers is presented by the John Godber Company and Theatre Royal Wakefield. It plays at Harrogate Theatre until March 27th and you can find tickets here. The production then tours until April 6th and you can find information on venues and tickets here.

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