Let’s face it, nobody goes to the Royal Court for a high-brow evening of culture. What you get at this fabulous Liverpool theatre is guaranteed down-to-earth, honest to goodness scouse humour. And so what if it’s sexist, laddish, and lavatorial? The ladies in the audience loved it just as much as the men.
When John Godber wrote Bouncers back in the eighties he created a script about real-life city night-club antics that would be adapted and tailored to the locale in which it is performed. And if there is one man who knows how to tinker with such a recipe, it is director Bob Eaton who has successfully added the right amount of sauce and seasoning to satisfy the Royal Court audience.
The performance was scouse humour at its best. Four guys on a sparse stage wearing white shirts and dickie-bows not only held the audience, they totally owned them. There was rawkus laughter throughout and a well-earned a passionate standing ovation from the house – and this was on Press Night, one of the toughest audiences to please!
With no change of costume or scenery they portrayed over twenty different characters. In addition to the four bouncers, they took us through sketch after sketch, using nothing but their acting skills to transform, one minute into dippy salon girls getting ready for a night out, and the next into drunks attempting to gate-crash the club, and then on to depict smooth operators on the dance floor, the slick-talking Disk Jockey, desperate end-of-the-night wallflowers hoping to pull a bloke, equally desperate blokes hoping to pull a half decent bird. They went effortlessly from camp to butch and back again, from scouser to cockney from chav to punk, and from sober to drunk …to comatose.
The play was fast-moving, going from one cameo sketch to another without any let-up in the quick-fire comedy.
Of course, for a play like this to work, you need to have the right actors. For Paul Broughton, Danny O’Brien and Michael Stark it was business as usual, having played the same parts here twice before. New to the cast this year was Andrew Schofield a seasoned comedy actor and out and out scouser who knows how to grab the Royal Court audience by the throat and not let go until they’ve gasped every last ounce of laughter.
In addition to playing the hard-nosed security crew, they switch variously, and believably, to portraying rowdy drunks, likely lads on the pull, giggling Liverpool lasses on a hen night, and a whole host of other characters.
Michael’s portrayal of a scouse 20-something hairdresser on a girly night out was one of the funniest things you will ever see. But so real too. In fact all through the play, you could tell by the audience’s reaction that they identified with so many of the characters as each of the four repeatedly pulled gem after comedy gem out of the bag.
It is no wonder see such experienced and talented actors returning again and again to this unique theatre, each bringing something special to the stage. Collectively, their stage, screen and television credits practically filled a double A4 spread in the cast biographies section of the program. Credits that include Corrie, Brookside and The Royal as well as hard-hitting dramas like Good Cop, Liverpool One and Murphy’s Law.
You really don’t want to miss this play. It is five star entertainment. And do yourself a favour book yourself a seat up front in the stalls where you can really appreciate the comedic expressions and visual innuendo that say even more than the scripted words. Another bonus of a seat in the cabaret styles stalls is the option of partaking of a fine pre-show meal served up by the theatre’s resident chef and catering team.
Bouncers is on at the Royal Court Theatre in Liverpool until the 4th of October.