Max Mills’ production of Bouncers is dirty, funny, slightly dark and sustained by some stellar acting. The small cast of four fill the roles of four Northern bouncers, a troop of four girls on a night out, a group of four drunken lads trying to “get some” from said girls, and a handful of other miscellaneous characters, including an Indian man who appears to own both a DVD store and a kebab van. The stereotyping of roles is extreme enough to be hilarious, from Richard Hill’s “I’m not wearing any knickers tonight!” portrayal of “sexy Suzy”; Ziad Samaha’s “I sconce anyone whose father was down for ministerial expenses” obnoxious Oxford undergraduate; Barnaby Lynch’s somewhat down-to-earth “I could shag a rat”; and Jack Plant’s philosophical musings as Lucky “I’m not thick” Eric (“Everywhere people are dying, conceiving, growing vegetables, and shagging”).
The darker undercurrents to the play prevent it from being just fluff and mockery of stereotypes, touching on the emasculation of being on the dole, the cruelty of university life, the “living for the weekend” mentality of spending a week’s supermarket-cashier earnings on clubbing, and the corruption of underage teenagers. Loudly chanted drinking songs ending with “I beat my wife with an iron bar/ ‘cause I’m a Northern bastard” can only make us wince, and there are definitely moments when the casual stereotyping is brutal and shocking. Ultimately, the social commentary is thought-provoking enough while playing second fiddle to the comedy, which prevails through a combination of absurd one-liners and great physical acting.
Bouncers is showing this week, and probably deserves to be sold out every night. One word of warning: if you sit in the aisle, you might find Lucky Eric asking you whether your shit sinks (“Does it though? Does it?”) or be confronted with Judd’s cajoling “Give us a kiss… I’ve got a knife.” I’m just giving you a heads up.