"The atmosphere was intoxicating," we are told near the start of the hugely enjoyable production, Bouncers - and it is true. The audience was hooked from the very beginning of John Godber’s hilarious play, with real heart behind the humour, which is currently playing at the Old Rep Theatre.
Originally performed as part of the 1977 Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Bouncers went on to become a cult hit and has been staged around the world. It was chosen by the National Theatre as one of the top 100 plays of the 20th century – and it is clear from this lively version that it has lost none of its charm.
Set in the 80s, in the seedy nightclub scene of Pontefract, the play takes place over the course of one night to tell the story of a night out on the town. A four strong cast embody a multitude of relatable characters – including teenage boys, adolescent girls, a suitably sleazy DJ, a weary kebab seller and of course, hardened bouncers – which give the play both a fast pace and an infectious sense of fun. The minimal set and lack of costume changes (the cast wear suits throughout) only serves to highlight the versatility and energy of the actors, who bounce off each other (forgive the pun) to give utterly captivating and poignant performances – plus some thoroughly entertaining dance moves to classic 80s tunes.
At the same time, the play had depth and occasional darkness in its subject matter. Strip back the abundant humour, and we see that it is unafraid to tackle difficult and important issues as it paints the sometimes bleak reality of relationships, violence, power, despair and sexuality.
With so many characters, there is sadly not the opportunity to delve too far into the backstory of each – but perhaps this is prime material for a potential, and certainly much-hoped for, sequel, judging by the smiles on the audience’s faces.
It is easy to see why it is award-winning. Don’t miss your chance to see it.
The John Godber Company and Theatre Royal Wakefield production of Bouncers runs at the Old Rep Theatre until Saturday 18 April. For more information and to book, click here, or call the ticket hotline on 0121 359 9444.
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