The boys bounce back

Bouncers

Wolverhampton Grand

*****

It's a fair statement to say that if you were to examine the output of the British stage in any one season that you would find a fair number of popular works that span at least 50 years of play writing.

There are those that have become fossilised in a particular era, those that should have remained buried and those that have become timeless unearthed classics.  The problem for a modern audience with a lot of older work is that the text is often locked into a particular time frame and with it come the lofty values of the original author restricting modern amendments.

So as the late Dave Allen may have said ` Thank your God for Godber'. Bouncers first came into being in 1977 but with the writer John Godber directing his own work it could have been this year. Bouncers is a play that everyone thinks they know even if they have not seen it. 

The fact is that even if you have seen a version over the years directed by Godber himself, it's unlikely you will see it again as thankfully it gets re written, altered, updated and revived. As Godber himself says of his actors ` they are getting a bespoke piece of drama they are not doing something that was written 35 years ago. ‘

The result is a snapshot that is as clear and incisive as ever of the culture of weekend night life seen from the framework of the Club door, the dance floor and the revellers themselves.

DEEPLY TRAGIC

Much of the comedy still comes in the visual form of four burly guys switching roles from the white stiletto brigade dancing around handbags to the lads at the urinals, and the changing is sometimes faster than the moving lights. At times it deeply tragic and the audience are caught wrong footed with the laughs coming at precisely the wrong times with descriptions of cheap  grubby sex in dark corners and backdoors silencing the bawdy giggles and cheers.  

The combined acting skills of Ace Bhatti, Don Gillet, William Illkley and Ian Reddington as the four Bouncers are pushed to the limit as the mood and atmosphere changes with a turn or step backwards. All of them have each served time on EastEnders at some point and are screen regulars on a wide range of UK TV drama and as a team they are all superbly coordinated.

A special mention must be given to Adrian Barnes the lighting director without whose work this production would not be as effective.  Barnes manages to achieve with the flick of a switch what a whole team of scene changers often struggle to do with cumbersome props and furniture, transporting the action from the drunken mania of the dance floor to the silent silhouetted monologues of Bouncer, Lucky Eric played by Reddington.

It's too much to hope for that other plays locked in their era might be given a new millennium makeover or that their writers, if still alive, would have the directorial skill to make the changes needed to do so.

Bouncers has achieved the almost impossible, a finished work in progress that is as relevant to the teen age culture of today as it is to the Locarno goers back in the 70s. It seems probable that this future overhaul mentality will continue with the play and if it does we will see Bouncers Bouncing back to stage for many years to come.

Jeff Grant 

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