This year, the Liverpool University Drama Society are taking the John Godber classic Bouncers up to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Whether you know it from doing drama at school or from seeing one of its many adaptations of the past thirty years, the familiarity that this play persists to have with our everyday lives and inevitable ‘night out’ culture becomes ever more evident upon seeing this production.
Bouncers is the story of a Great British night out with all of its perpetrators, retold through the one medium that can really tell it like it is – the medium of bouncer conversation. Did we really think no one was sober enough to witness us in all our glory at the end of a night?
With many adaptations putting emphasis on location or the feel of a particular era in history, directors Angela Hehir and Alice Watkins have instead generalised the storyline and modernised the aura of the play. They present an array of contemporary stereotypes, covering as many social and economic backgrounds as possible and essentially handing a mirror to the audience, giving everyone the opportunity to spot that character they had that memorable encounter with one night at Revs or Walkabout. It captures the modern campus effect; the rapid movement of British young people from one side of the country to the other, for the purposes of a new life or simply for a night out, to then indiscriminately come together at the bar or on the dance floor.
Whilst not being so niche as to exclude an older audience, everything in the production has an air of the past decade about it; from the two edgy guys threatening the bouncers with slam poetry if they’re not allowed into the club, to a group of girls dancing their troubles away to Rihanna’s ‘Work’.
The group of bouncers itself is modernised, the excitable Judd being played by female actress Katie Moncaster – an unquestionable directorial decision and performance, with seemingly few changes made to dialogue or dynamic. In fact, the female figure injects new life into this classic; fitting every archetypal group shown on stage, whether it’s bouncers, ‘girly girls’ or ‘posh boys’.
Each of the four bouncers plays another two characters within a social group, again, with directorial emphasis on a dissection of British social culture, rather than the storyline within the group of bouncers itself. The supposed leader of the group of bouncers, Lucky Eric, played by Christian Darnell, as well as the stealthy Ralph (Charlie Collinson) are, in some ways, overshadowed by the other, female characters performed by these actors – Maureen and Suzie. A beautifully played-out comedic romance between Suzie and Darnell’s other character, clubber Baz, creates an unforgettable amalgamation of slapstick and familiarity to audience members. Such vibrance radiates from all the characters that the production has chosen to highlight in our memories and present anew on the stage.
It is upon realising the empathy and emotion that results from such a small development as seeing Rosie, one of the minor group characters, played by George Kemp (also bouncer Les), be cheated on in a club and cry to the ever unsympathetic sound of Basshunter’s ‘Now You’re Gone’, that the genius of these stories within a story unfolds. After seamless, exciting choregraphy, which allows for speed, yet clarity, in transitions from pub, to club door, to dancefloor, the barrage of laughs is skillfully divided up by somewhat unconmfortably thought-provoking bouncer comments, as each youthful archetype is observed – «18 going on 35, because they’ve got to».
Pretending to be nothing other than what it is, much like the cheery individuals that make up the boozy Saturday crowds, LUDS Bouncers almost fights off the idea that ‘high art’ is a necessity for memorable theatre, humouring «Lucky Eric’s first speech» and all the ‘social comments’ that follow very purposefully. This allows it to be an extraordinarily flexible production, both effortlessly entertaining, as well as allowing for satisfaction to those searching for wisdom lurking between the lines of witty, yet somewhat eerie, bouncer commentary that follows the endless alcohol-fuelled crows, which we have all once been part of.
You’ll be able to see LUDS’ Bouncers at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival:
Monday 15th until the 20th of August, starting 14:05,
Surgeons Hall (The Space, Venue 53).
Tickets are £7 or £5 concession & you can book here.