The Little Theatre’s production of Willy Russell’s Stags and Hens (remix) is both funny and heartfelt. It is bawdy, raucous, full of innuendo, and an excellent way to spend an evening.
The play takes place on the eve of Linda and Dave’s wedding and, as misfortune would have it, their respective hen and stag dos are both held in the same Liverpool nightclub. Set almost entirely in the nightclub toilets, the set design is simple but evocative. The grimy walls coated with graffiti fully convince you that this is not an upmarket establishment.
The excellent cast all brought strong and distinct senses of character to their roles and clearly had fun with the play.
The hens are led by Bride Linda (Holly Matuisiewicz) who appears to have cold feet for her upcoming nuptials. But her friends are having none of that and are determined that not only will there be a wedding, but that it won’t be cursed by Linda accidentally seeing Dave before the big day.
All the hens are fantastic with the energy they bring to their roles, but particular mention should be given to Angelica Robinson whose Bernadette has a commanding presence on stage that brings the group together. Olivia Phillips is joyously entertaining in her portrayal of Maureen who runs in and out of the cubicle to be sick from the intense rollercoaster of emotions she goes through trying to make sure everyone has a nice time.
Across the other side of the stage in the men’s bathroom are the stags. Groom-to-be Dave (Simon Butler) spends the entire show passed out drunk, and most of that offstage in a cubicle sobering up; a sign that the stag do isn’t going much better than the hen do.
Again, all the stags play their roles to perfection. An especially strong performance is given by Lewis Cole playing Eddie, a character obsessed by loyalty to his friendship group and home above all else. Cole manages to strike a balance between the angry, and at times violent, aspects of Eddie’s character and his underlying desire for things to stay as they are.
The arrival of musician Peter (Nick Wilkins) at the club and the reveal of his connection to the bride throws the hen and stag dos into disarray with both groups dealing with the consequences.
Beneath the surface level plot of stag and hen do’s gone awry, Stags and Hens explores class and ambition and how change impacts people and groups.
This is exemplified by how strongly the stags will defend and hype up the artistic skills of Kav (Matt Zebrowski), yet the idea that he could go to art school and do something with that skill is utterly preposterous and downright laughable to them.
Peter is someone who left their Liverpool roots to make a go of it in London. Although this makes him seem like a big deal to Robbie (Joey Perez-Jones), Kav and Billy (Russel Webster), to Eddie it makes him a traitor.
Linda is faced with this issue head-on when she finally sees Peter again. Is she happy with her life now, or is it worth risking it all for another future? As Director Simon Dickens says in the programme, this is a show that asks, “What would happen if…?”