Theatre Review: Bouncers, Royal Court Theatre, Liverpool

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Image Source: Royal Court Theatre

Written By: Mark Armstrong

Format: Play
Genre: Comedy
Date: September 4 2018
Location: Royal Court Theatre, Liverpool

After seeing the original Bouncers show some years ago, there was a sense of expectation for what this new incarnation would present. But how wrong we were, and in a very good way!

Before the show began, DJ Spykatcha was spinning music to add to the feel of being in a club, while four bouncers were casually walking around the auditorium, commenting on some people and generally getting into the spirit of things.

The show then begins to loud dance themes (including Bad Girls), and amazingly enough, those same four bouncers then ran onto the stage and set off on a wild and funny dance routine. The bouncers were Judd (Mutty Burman), Les (Michael Horsley), Lucky Eric (Joe Speare) and Ralph (Zain Salim).

After that initial surprise came another one: while the cast were always dressed as bouncers, they would play multiple characters throughout the show, essentially divided up into groups. With the help of some clever lighting, they firstly evolve into “girls” in a hairdresser’s, discussing their big plans for a night out to celebrate Rosie’s birthday. There were very authentic mannerisms and accents by all four; the posture and moves were spot-on.

We then move to a barber’s shop (the settings did not change; the character changes literally happen in a split-second, which adds to the humour), with an interesting-sounding Barber preparing three “cheeky-chappy” lads for their own night out, featuring the usual banter and humour that you would expect from a gang of happy-go-lucky lads.

These change-overs embody the fine performance by all four actors, who multi-task throughout; at one point, they become a band, singing My Girl in accapella and dancing away, which was very impressive, where they then suddenly change back into the girls (Susie, Elaine, Rosie and Maureen), who are singing Put A Ring On It.

Throughout the show, the songs chosen manage to perfectly capture those moments, and are very intelligently used. Case in point: the girls singing I Will Survive following a break-up (“We were together for TWO DAYS!”), while a men’s karaoke leads to an obvious parody of Shaft, which was very amusing.

All this time, the drinks are flowing, with the girls and guys all drunk and ready to go to a club. That’s when the lighting changes once more, and we finally meet the bouncers themselves. They discuss everything from political correctness to their thoughts on the LGBT community to the four watching some “entertaining” (read: pornographic) content involving a male and his female friend having some fun (which itself is a flashback scene and one of the funniest scenes of the night).

We also hark back to a night when two of the bouncers tackle (no pun intended) a stuck-up and posh group of rugby lads; the acting and choreography here is excellent as we see deliberately-ludicrous brawling in super-slow motion, perfectly capturing the feel of things. Lucky Eric also delivers a number of serious speeches which act as a reminder of the genuine pitfalls of a night out, one being about young girls who get so drunk that they become vulnerable, and the potential consequences. Scene changes illustrate the end and beginning of chapters, with lighting and music joining sound effects in being a very good and simple way to transition between parts of the show.

In the second half, it’s a noisy start as both the girls and guys are hoping to get lucky. By now, Susie is “sexy and drunk”, but Rosie has spotted her ex (Patrick) and hopes he may propose, only to crumble when she realises that he is “necking” another girl. All of the girls are distraught as she had been planning a wedding, with her mates planning to be bridesmaids. She plots revenge by suggesting a “drive-by”; not a shooting, but passing his house to see if he’s with another girl. They were together for two days you know!

We move back to the bouncers, who by now are re-enacting the pornography scene, where they are watching it on DVD and panic when it goes into reverse. Lucky Eric’s next speech is about a girl the previous Christmas being surrounded by a group of men who are hoping to take advantage of her, with Eric coming to her rescue, which the girl in question was of course very grateful for.

Back to the club, Susie cops off with the older of the four lads, and both are so bladdered that even minor things (such as his breath, which is apparently such an issue that Susie says she doesn’t know whether to give him a mint or a toilet roll to help clean it) are not a problem, though she soon realises that she doesn’t even like him and tries to get rid of him. Meanwhile, Elaine pounces on another of his mates who is really not interested and tries to get away as quickly as possible; all of this happens with the same four actors, which only makes things funnier.

Outside, Lucky Eric and Ralph, who don’t see eye-to-eye all night, almost come to blows, but stop short out of respect for one another. Soon, the guys and girls leave the club (or are thrown out in some cases), and the bouncers begin the clean-up operation, with Lucky Eric finding a tenner, hence his nickname. The show closes with a major dancing routine to Uptown Funk, interspersed with some unexpected numbers such as a Bollywood tune, which is an excellent and highly energetic end to the evening.

All four actors worked very hard and put on a tremendous performance in what was a fantastic show, much better than expected, and even better than our previous experience with the show! Clever use of the small set, great lighting, strong writing, familiar humour, outstanding dancing, fine singing, believable acting and generally unforgettable showings by each of the cast makes for one of the very best shows you will see this year. Bouncers is a must-watch!

Overall Rating: 9.5/10 – Classic