Theatre Review: Bouncers - York Theatre Royal (then National tour) ✭✭✭

York Theatre Royal (then tour)

Bouncers is back… again. John Godber’s smash hit comedy returns with a brand new line up for a UK tour starting at York Theatre Royal. Directed by the author himself, this production continues the tradition of updating the original with current references, acknowledging huge changes in both society and technology in the intervening 35 years since its first conception.

The heart of the show hasn’t changed – though now it has a dance beat rather than disco. This is Godber’s classic snapshot of a alcohol fuelled night out in any UK town or city, shown through the eyes of 4 leery boys, 4 glammed up girls and of course the 4 men in black who have seen it all before. And it’s still very funny.

The banter between the youngsters out on the town and the black humour of the Bouncers fires back and forth with one liners and laughs galore. This is Godber at his comic writing best. Whilst the characters are more caricatures than rounded true-to-life individuals (the girls in particular stray a little towards being clichéd Coronation Street type characters) that’s fine - this is not a gritty documentary but a fun night out with a little bit of social commentary on the side.

Bouncers, however, is more than just one liners and comic pastiches. Through head doorman Lucky Eric and his monologues, we are shown compassion and fear for the safety of the young girls who leave themselves open to predators as they drink themselves senseless in the name of having fun.  He has seen it all – and he doesn’t like what he sees. The doormen are human after all and reflect the concerns of parents across the country.

In traditional Godber style, the all-male quartet play all roles both male and female, as the audience is taken from barber shop preening to the backstreet alley post-club. They slip easily from one part to another, each actor demonstrating their craft and skill to the max. Ian Reddington’s Lucky Eric is strong but outshone by William Ilkley as Judd, with Ace Bhatti and Don Gilet bringing extra youthful energy to proceedings.

Slight disappointment however lies though with the updating of the text in this remix. Often it is confused, not knowing where it wants to be. Talk of Polaroids and Piña Coladas sit uneasily alongside discussions about YouTube and Facebook. Sadly Bouncers is starting to show its age with scenes about projectors now having to be justified through flashback. But does it need to try to keep up with the kids?  Why not accept its age and go for a 70s or 80s setting with retro appeal?

The pace is also a little off. The actors heading off stage before walking straight back on to signify a change of characters seemed clunky and unnecessary. The recorded music, an integral part of the show, also slows down the narrative in some parts. Maybe the rhythm will pick up a few extra BPM during the life of the tour.

Pip Leckenby’s nightclub set is simple and functional, allowing the actors the freedom to fill the space with their characterisations as they grab beer barrels strewn about the stage to aid them as they create visual images. The lighting is superbly dynamic, taking us from the bright lights of the dance floor to the seedy side streets.

Bouncers is still an extremely enjoyable night out – the press night audience certainly loved every minute of it - but maybe now it has to accept that times have moved on and it can no longer slap on new makeup and continually try to reinvent itself. The original script, hidden beneath the surface, is still fantastic. Is there anything wrong with growing old gracefully instead?

3 out of 5 stars ✭✭✭

Review by James Eaglesfield

Tour Dates
5-8 September 2012
York Theatre Royal
Box Office: 01904 623568

12-15 September 2012
Bradford Alhambra Theatre
Box Office: 01274 432000

18-22 September 2012
Malvern Theatres
Box Office: 01684 892277

25-29 September 2012
Nottingham Theatre Royal
Box Office: 0115 989 5555

2-6 October 2012
Wolverhampton Grand Theatre
Box Office: 01902 429212

10-13 October 2012
Hull New Theatre
Box Office: 01482 300300

16-20 October 2012
Wycombe Swan Theatre
Box Office: 01494 512000

31 Oct - 3 Nov 2012
Regent Theatre Stoke
Box Office: 0844 871 7627

6-10 November 2012
Pomegranate Theatre
Box Office: 01246 345222

14-17 November 2012
Darlington Civic Theatre
Box Office: 01325 486555