John Godber’s 1997 play is the most famous of his works, with a new production of Bouncers opening every week. Furthermore, it is popular with young companies and is a set text for GCSE. This, therefore, made it an obvious choice for Phoenix Theatre Arts. This production has made the Studio Theatre in the Harlow Playhouse its home for the last three nights.
The play focuses on the lives of four bouncers, and the people who they meet in their jobs. We meet four girls out to have fun, four boys who seem intent on leaving the club with a girl (any girl!) and the four bouncers themselves, who are all portrayed very well on the whole by the cast.
Prior to getting underway, the four Bouncers came out into the audience and began to abuse the audience, setting the tone for the consistent breaking of the fourth wall that ensued. Whilst this was quite funny at first – I myself was mocked for “sitting like a girl” – the spectacle lasted over five minutes and began to drag which did reduce the effect of this slightly.
Will Edden, who has previously played Gavroche and Dodger in the West End, portrayed each of his characters confidently and very clearly enjoyed his role.
Drew Gregg, playing Ralph, was physically strong, ensuring each of his moments had purpose, and made a particularly convincing Sexy Suzy! His subtle movements during a scene in which the other bouncers complimented him on the size of his manhood were particularly noteworthy.
Daniel Boulton had the difficult role of playing Lucky Eric who, alongside some of the funniest moments, also had the responsibility of numerous monologues throughout offering a ‘social commentary’. His comic timing was very good, and he was able to use his physicality to his advantage, often co-operating with Edden in a ‘little and large’ style duo.
The stand out bouncer, however, was fourteen year old Joseph Vaiana. The sheer versatility between each of his characters was excellent, and his impression of a typical North-Weald style salesman was spot-on. As Rudd, he never stopped reacting to the other bouncers and did stand out.
|Bouncers Set, designed by Trevor Pavely|
The design, by Trevor Paveley was minimalistic, as synonymous with Godber’s play, but worked nicely. The nightclub sign was a smooth touch, however the door could have been perhaps secured better as it did expose the actors at points when waiting to enter, which did reduce the clever back lighting, as designed by Rob Dyer.
From watching this production I get a great sense of collaboration between the cast and director, Jeanne Stacey. They worked well to bring the script well into the 21st Century, with references to Uptown Funk and Van trainers, however some elements, for example the inclusion of a Thriller dance, seem out of place and almost superfluous to the flow of the piece. Furthermore, at times, the sound was too loud to hear the actors even in the front row of the intimate studio theatre.
Nevertheless, four very exciting performers managed to entertain their audience for the evening, giving a very honest and funny insight into the UK club culture and, more importantly, a good production of a play I will admit to disliking with a passion.
More information on Phoenix Theatre Arts can be found