First performed in 1977 to an audience of no-one, Bouncers (Remix) was rewritten into its current form, with just 4 actors, by original writer John Godber in 1980. Directed here at The Little Theatre in Leicester by Jane Towers, this fast paced and hilariously funny look into Britain’s clubbing culture is as much a social commentary as it is an incredibly well written comedy
The stage is simple, with the neon “Mr Cinders” sign a focal point on what is essentially a black box. All generations will know a similar sign and what it represents: unbridled euphoria, freedom, intoxicating music, sticky floors and more alcohol than the human body can digest! That’s our clubbing culture…and we love it!
We are met by four dour and surely faced bouncers, standing in formation as they protect the gateway to fun times. I have no prior knowledge of this play, so when the bouncers break into rap, complete with choreographed dad dancing, this is an unexpected treat that sets the tone for the rest of this highly enjoyable production.
Broken into a series of interlinked vignettes where the actors take on multiple roles including sexy Suzy, sharting young men, punk rockers and football fanatics, we take a nostalgic trip on a Friday night to Mr Cinders. Lucky Eric (Steve Feeney), Ralph (Steve Finlay), Les (Steve Elliott) and Judd (Allan “honorary Steve” Smith) are absolutely brilliant as an ensemble quartet. They are fully committed to all of their roles and the pace at which they switch from gossipy hairdresser to intimidating bouncer, to horny teenage boy is just incredible. The roles are physically demanding and the comedy demands split second precision, and this is what we get with Feeney, Finlay, Elliott and Smith.
Lucky Eric’s four monologues are a break from the jokes and violence of the interplay between the ensemble, and Feeney shows us a more vulnerable side to Lucky Eric as he breaks the fourth wall talking to the audience about some of the more sobering events that Bouncers observe, with a particular focus on the treatment and objectification of women which clearly sickens him. Feeney’s delivery is strong here and the atmosphere in the auditorium changes as soon as one of his monologues is announced – Feeney holds the audience in the palm of his hand.
It’s incredibly difficult to separate the other three ensemble members because they are all so adept at playing these roles and they don’t really have individual moments, unlike Feeney, however, Finlay’s Sexy Suzy just oozes sensuality and Finlay knows how to play an audience with a cheeky wink here and there. Smith plays maniacal characters with intensity and power, and Elliott plays happy go lucky with an enormous smile, but can switch in a matter of seconds. This is a quartet to be reckoned with.
The use of the few props also serves as triggers for the audience which is needed at the beginning as it can be difficult to follow the flow of the narrative because of the swift character changes, however the audience soon gets the hang of it. As soon as the quartet reach for their handbags, the female audience members sit up a little straighter in anticipation – these scenes definitely capture the essence of the female experience on Friday nights….and mock them; the falsetto voices, the feminine movements, the catty relationships – we’ve seen them all! The hats, sunglasses and weapons also serve their purpose very well. Everything is minimal in this play: set, prop and costume, but this just makes the acting even more important – and thankfully we have Feeney, Elliott, Smith and Finlay taking the reins under the expert eye of director Jane Towers; she has done a phenomenal job here of ensuring this play is seamlessly put together.
Set outside and inside a club, there are some absolute bangers (and some purposeful duds) in the soundtrack, which has been updated since 1977, and the audience do find themselves humming along in nostalgia.
The audience is sparse in numbers tonight which is a great shame, not only for the actors and production team, but Leicester folk, you are missing out! Think about Crystals back in its heyday, or Life or Zanzi Bar – who wouldn’t want to reminisce about those alcohol-soaked times? You may not have heard of Bouncers, but it has an epic following, and usually has sell-out runs. This is a show not to be missed…unless you are easily offended and dislike the odd swear and insult.
Tickets are still available for all nights and with a running time of under 2 hours, it’s completely accessible as a midweek show, and who knows, the nostalgia may even encourage a weekend trip to Mosh or Fan Club!
Bouncers is playing at Leicester’s The Little Theatre from 12-17 June.