Bouncers and Shakers

Date 10th March 2023
Society NK Theatre Arts
Venue The Forum Theatre, Romily
Type of Production Play
Director Jennie Davies and Pete Curran
Written By John Godber

Report

Author: Steph Niland

Bouncers and Shakers is a double bill comedy written by John Godber and Jane Thornton, set in the 80s and packed full of culture references of that era. Both call for 4 actors to take on a multitude of characters of a trendy cocktail bar in Shakers and a night club in Bouncers.

Nk Theatre Arts’ pared back set in Shakers and a completely blank stage for Bouncers worked brilliantly here. The focus is definitely script and character, and the setting plays second fiddle. That being said the bar and stool offering in Shakers was used to good effect and allowed the changes of scene to have some shape. There was less call for any props or set pieces in Bouncers. It is the better written of the two pieces and the transitions much more clearly defined.

The cast of Shakers took on caricatures of the patrons who frequent the cocktail bar, exploring the social classes and the treatment the female employees receive from them. It also studied the relationships between the 4 cocktail waitresses and all that sort of predominately female working environment entails – catty moments, clashes of personalities and interests and the support and fondness that grows. Emily Stannage, Becky Larner, Georgia Goodwin and Freia Reidel – Fisher as the four waitresses did a good job in portraying these themes. The characterisations of the patrons gained strength as the play unfolded. But the strongest elements were the stand-alone monologues. These felt the most developed and sound moments.

These types of productions are team efforts and work only if everyone is solid on lines and transitions. There were some shaky moments, but the cast remained in character and kept the energy flowing nicely.

Some stand out moments were Nicki’s monologue about her Gran, performed by Emily Stannage. True emotion and beautifully placed – well done. Another monologue naturally delivered and accessible was Carol’s regarding her family and educational aspirations, performed by Georgia Goodwin. Becky Larner is clearly talented and a very convincing actor, she has a fine grasp of humour and of using facial expression and focus to great effect. There’s another talented comedic performer in Freia Reidel – Fisher as Adele, whose asides and comic timing were very entertaining. Well done all.

Bouncers explores similar topics to Shakers. It tells of 4 Bouncers working the door of a less than salubrious night club and the script lets us into the perils and struggles of their profession as well as gives us glimpses into their personal lives. There is a touch of gang mentality and a desensitisation to violence that is explored and when they take on the lads on a night out, the girl-hunting pack culture is very much of its era but there is no fault in this cast’s portrayal of each character depicted.

NK’s version of Bouncers was well structured using physicality, lights, and sound (provided by the very skilled Ben Wicks), so that each section was neatly played. The characters were well rounded and detailed. The pace was impressive – particularly pleasing were the pauses and solid presence of the 4 bouncers across the front of the stage. Where Shakers tends to have stretches of comedy with the monologues dropping in bombs of seriousness, Bouncers blends the serious with the comedy and the disillusionment and inner struggles of the Bouncers are developed much more.

Mike Lamont as Lucky Eric, the wise old owl of the group, was wonderfully layered. The poetic brute was played beautifully. Well done. Impressive rap skills too – pitched just right and nowhere near as cringey as the ‘adult film’!

Jud, played by Simon Bownas- Topley was a great contrast. The loose cannon, fidgety bouncer. Simon’s female characterisations were fabulous and extremely funny.

Darren Stannage gave us Les. Darren is a very naturalistic, believable and assured performer. His characterisations were convincing, as were the accents, his reactions ‘in the moment’ and real. A very competent performance – congratulations!

The last of the four, but by no means least, was Terry Halliday as Ralph. Terry has a strong grasp of this kind of comedy and his characterisation and vocal abilities shone here. Using his expressive face and use of accent and physicality to marvellous effect. Sexy Suzie was just perfectly played. Good job!

Bouncers was thoroughly enjoyable, and, in some sections, it was easy to forget that there weren’t more actors on the stage - the transitions between character were so well cut and honed.

The direction by Jennie Davies and Pete Curran was appropriate and for the most part, well thought through. Bouncers came out stronger in this area but Shakers may have tightened up given time. There were some great sections and the curtain rising to reveal the characters was a great touch. Having the Bouncers greet the audience outside the theatre and in the bar also added to the fun and set the atmosphere for a comedic dash through 80s nightlife culture.