Bouncers by John Godber
Worcester Repertory Company
Swan Theatre, Worcester 10th May 2023
Thankfully, our names were down on the list and we were lucky enough to get in!
The titular Bouncers in the play had strong ideas on how to manage a night out and the ensuing performance presented a spectrum of human behaviour -as seen on any weekend in any nightclub across our island. The well-rehearsed roles captured a single night out culminating in the obligatory visit to the local nightclub; all of the roles were impressively played by just four fine actors: Rob Holman, Andy Watkins, Laurence Saunders and Phil Yarrow. Roles ranging from statuesque doormen, to loquacious lotharios, to garrulous girls and priggish punks hell-bent on finishing the working week with a night out they simply can’t remember.
Perhaps the behaviour and actions portrayed did not frame British life at its best. However, the time-worn escapades, clumsy flirting and distracted asides made for a humour-filled evening of knowing comedy. Physical gags gave way to genuine toilet humour – you have to admire a scene dedicated to Men’s room flatulence – and the commentary on the amount of alcohol consumed in one night simply compounded what we knew. I thought about this a lot as we dutifully made our way to the bar during the short interval…
Lucky Eric et al were either trying to make a situation worse or contain a scenario that did not need containing. For the Bouncers the night’s entertainment is all about power. The minimalist use of props echoed this fact. The barriers across the stage enforced a sense of control. The beer kegs suggested the power of freedom from social restrictions that only intoxicating alcohol can allow. “Social commentary?”
Due to the decade the play was written in, many of the cultural reference points highlighted the era. The ripple of chuckles when the girls danced around their hand-bags was both knowing and confessional. The joke about zits and Clearasil was an acknowledgment of what many went through; or are still going through, as the elixir of teenage choice is still being made, I checked (sic). The spinning bow-tie moments in the performance were not just for those of a certain age. The joyous laughter of the New College Worcester students, who were not born when the play was written, ignited the room on a number of occasions.
Fast-paced does not allow our theatrical experience justice. The timing of the actors was impeccable considering the script must have been a weighty tome of a challenge. A challenge our eponymous Bouncers were more than willing to accept.
The Swan Theatre volunteers, accepting they are part of the experience on the night offered a cordial welcome and added to an excellent night of theatre. We were not “shaken down,” frisked or subjected to toxic masculinity once.
By: Swilgate Scuttler