“Chuffin’ hell. I got in. I saw the ones that didn’t. Cock on!”
I’ve been to a few nightclubs in my time. Particularly in the North. I was too young for 1984 where the Director, Chris Hawley, has set this version of John Godber’s Bouncers. A quick trip to Newcastle in 2022 wouldn’t feel so different. They may not talk of video nasties, or punk rockers. Their faces may be planted in iPhones or swiping left on a dating app. The characters are still there. Pencil thin skirts, faces masked in mascara, someone shouting at the DJ that the music is rubbish. Young lads with too much down their trousers and not enough done with it. The world isn’t so very different. That is what this play taps into. It is unapologetic in nailing and transitioning between people on a night out and those that must herd them – the Bouncers.
Its quick-fire energy, reliance on four actors to provide the energy and spark in a ‘black box’ set is hard to pull off. It is a bombardment of the senses with someone in hush puppies enraptured by the laser lights. It is as far-removed from 2022 sensibilities as you can get. Everyone is fair game. It is rude. It is raw. Real. There is nothing unconscious about it. It forces one to face what we really are on a night out. Oh, yes. Even the Southerners.
Bouncers on Tour is great. Mayflower Studios is a wonderful space. It is as far removed from a nightclub as you can get. Yet through the curtains and with nothing but tired black suits and clip on bow ties the actors pull you into a nightclub in the Eighties. From there on it is electric, dancing with energy, vibe, offensiveness, pathos – it’s a swirl of fast paced interchange and characterisation. It is so intentionally off-message, and literally every stereotype is fair game, that you can’t help but applaud its nerve. It is quick, it is funny, it is alive, and everyone will see something in it that says something about them. I guarantee it.
One of the Bouncers is a woman. Scarlett Briant (Judd) is deliciously ‘one of the Bouncers’ not ‘one of the lads’. Kevin Hallet (Lucky Eric) is a gift of a performer. The ‘speeches’ about how he sees women compromised and abused decisively cut through the caustic mayhem and reinforce why this comedy must keep being performed. David McCulloch and Michael Goodwin-Grist are fire brands of physical energy, timing, and bite. Utterly engaging. Full of push, drive and va-va-voom. I wouldn’t separate any performance. They give it their all and they deliver.
I absolutely loved this. Not invidious, more invective, but with heart. It knows what it is doing. It does it gloriously.
Bouncers on Tour is, oddly enough, on tour. Rookesbury Park * (16 June), Sarisbury Green (17 June), Corhampton * (24 June), Netley Abbey * (30 June) and Furzey Gardens * (21 – 23 July). You really need to see this one. Don’t forget to splash on the Aramis and frizz up your perm.
[Editorial: For full details of tour dates, venues, ticket prices and information on how to book tickets visit the BlackBox Theatre Company website at www.blackboxtheatrecompany.com/whats-on. (Venues with * are open air performances)]