John Godber
Leicester Square Theatre

Publicity photo

The reputation for nightclub bouncers was arguably forged in 1980's Britain where stern, scary men - bow-tied, dressed in black - wielded a self-imposed power on whether you got in or you stayed out.

In Bouncers, first performed in 1984, we meet four such men, along with the male and female punters whose mundane lives are enlivened by the thought of Friday and the big night out, brought to life by David Bauckham ('Lucky' Eric, Rosie); Simon Higgins (Judd, 'plain' Elaine); Luke Stevenson (Les, Maureen); and Anthony Law (Ralph, sexy-Susie) - who also directs and produces.

This is simply great ensemble work, with each actor given numerous individual moments in which to shine. The monologues of Bauckham's unlucky-in-love Eric are touching; Higgins is a sweet and simple Judd; Stevenson, an impressive mimic and a bit of a curly-haired god, if truth be told; and Law is an enjoyably slimy DJ.

There are some explicit insights into the male psyche but most effective, I felt, were the portrayals of women, occasionally off-key but more than often spot-on. It's frightening to think that girls dancing around handbags can already seem achingly old-fashioned.

The urban/clubbing world of stag nights, hen nights, twenty-first birthdays, boozing, and urinals provides a very British snapshot; occasionally, some of the humour went over the head of my Canadian friend but she loved it just the same, as did the mixed adult audience of all ages seated around us.

Writer John Godber is a prolific, award-winning playwright. That his plays are some of the most performed in the English language is exemplified in his witty turn of phrase, often in rhyme (milky-white thighs, bloodshot eyes) and sharp imagery (used condoms likened to dead smurfs).

The venue is slap-bang in the heart of the West End. Its small, unassuming entrance next to the Prince Charles cinema (on Leicester Place) belies a large playing space beneath, that is already attracting big names in music and comedy (Jerry Sadowitz is current resident) and the smaller place in the basement below, home to Bouncers until March, that even has its own little bar.

This is big fun for a good night out - and not just on Fridays.

Reviewer: Anita-Marguerite Butler

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