A small space, pounding music, flashing lights. Sound familiar? At the Burton Taylor the cast of John Godber’s Bouncers unapologetically conjures up a night out in a Northern town. From the ritual of getting ready, to the unsteady taxi ride home, snapshots of the night are punctuated by the condescending glare of the four Bouncers who observe it all.
The comedy itself is far from half-hearted, offering all the bawdy humour one might expect from a play about a drunken club night: slurred swearing, pissing against walls, violent vomiting. Consequently, the cast are at their best when they throw themselves unrestrained into their caricatures.
Their portrayals of girls getting ready for a 21st is effective, as they do their hair and choose drinks, whilst their depictions of smarmy posh ‘college boys’ elicited a well-deserved laugh from the audience.
The Burton Taylor seems an ideal space to perform the play, the simplicity of the space and set offering a base to be transformed into one of a myriad of locations (namely barbers, bathrooms, clubs and pubs).
Clad in black, and armed only with four stools, the cast certainly can’t rely on showy props or design. Luckily, their ability to flit between these different stereotypes at any given moment is impressive: the quartet of figures, arms crossed, gruffly voiced, embody bouncers, but transform in a second to outspoken lads or screeching girls.
Chris Connell particularly deserves praise for this, fluctuating between the bouncer ‘Lucy Eric’ and tipsy club attendees. The comedy centres on stereotype, and the production certainly makes the most of this, although the characterisation occasionally feels undermined by moments of self-consciousness.
With a range of people and situations, some episodes do feel more successful than others. There are moments of witty poignancy: a bouncer offering his ‘philosophy on life’, a girl crying surrounded by friends (“the tears begin to flow and with it the mascara”), the tired looking lads sitting forlorn, heads in hands.
However, the on-going depiction of alcohol induced stumbling across the stage, the aggression of the blokey bouncers and their intoxicated customers, does begin to feel a little repetitive. As a result it sometimes feels as though the play struggles to maintain momentum.
Equally, some of the dialogue would benefit from a quicker pace: the moments when the cast work together in a stylised way, speaking and posing in perfect unison, prove how effective this can be, but it is not always consistently shown.
Nonetheless, the cast’s ability to work together as a compact group, and the energy of their responses to the script cannot be faulted. At once outrageous, surreal, yet recognisable, Bouncers is worth a look.
Bouncers is playing at the Burton Taylor Studio until 1st November