John Godber’s Bouncers is performed from the perspective of four doormen: the philosophical “Lucky” Eric (Damien Lee), the hyperactive Les (Tye Shepherd), bonehead Ralph (Jeremy Wood) and the instable Judd (Michael Lamb). Quickly, the eponymous four become Maureen, Rosie, Elaine and Susie, a gaggle of girls out to celebrate a 21st birthday, and then Kev, Baz and co. heading out for a big night on the town. With secondary characters thrown into the mix throughout, Bouncers sees four actors occupying a total of 20 roles.
As is obvious, Bouncers is Godber’s take on nightclubbing culture: the superficiality, promiscuity, binge drinking and drugs, and it certainly gives more than a good stab at capturing the people and the places of the everlasting Friday night we’ve all had one too many of. But for a member of Generation X such as this reviewer, some of the references are a touch outdated. Disappointing too, that when today’s clubkid slang is used effectively it loses any credibility by the show’s end by being muttered at the drop of a hat. Still, this is modern theatre executed with confidence, flair and fun.
What struck me immediately about this performance was how clearly the cast enjoyed themselves. The ensemble morphed between characters effortlessly and the swatches of dance and song sewn throughout are clearly relished. Lee is likeable as Eric, the oldest (and perhaps wisest) of the gang. He’s a father figure, having watching the door for too long, and Lee shows us many sides to a man who, prima facie, seems simple and content with his lot. By my count, Wood was responsible for the most roles at six, and a very promising young actor he is, with terrific accent work and a commanding presence on the stage with all of his characters.
Lamb is given the best material (as the off-kilter Judd and the maniacal Susie), and is a riot for most of the show. Shepherd takes all his roles into the stratosphere with beyond energetic delivery. Thankfully there are lapses from the toilet humour when Godber looks into the deeper sides of his characters, unearthing their broken relationships, their prejudices and their discontent with work, and this is where Bouncers hits its straps, offering real depth to characters who so far have been entertaining only on a two dimensional level.
Due to the comic flair and impeccable timing this play demands from its cast I am sure there have been many mediocre productions since Bouncerss opening night in 1977. With a keen sense of humour from all involved and sharp direction this production is surely not one of those. Bouncers relates a universal experience, and for a Brisbane audience the show has been tailored nicely: there are the obligatory Ipswich jokes and the references to local pubs and clubs which the audience lapped up. There is a particularly poignant moment when Eric (during one of his many monologues) alludes to witnessing a gang rape by a football team while watching the door one night. Director Karen Crone has selected a professional, entertaining ensemble. All four are thoroughly capable comic actors, seizing their schizophrenic roles with exuberance and flair and as a result Bouncers is very, very funny, with near flawless delivery.
Too often dinner theatre is a little, well, half-baked. It is pleasing then that Bouncers provides a rollicking night out, accompanied by superb food and the rich, jazz-club atmosphere the Stagedoor Dinner Theatre provides.
Although the fliers and humour may suggest otherwise, Bouncers is technically demanding theatre which works well thanks to a well-drilled ensemble and a director who has seized the colour, campness and fun of this irreverent, sharply written show.