John Godber and Jane Thornton
Bath Theatre Royal and touring
Hull Truck's John Godber and Jane Thornton first staged Shakers in 1986, after Thornton was prompted by Godber's all-male Bouncers to co-write a 'sister' play, with an all-female cast playing multiple characters of both sexes. Since then it's undergone various reincarnations, including Shakers Restirred in 1991 and a musical version the following year.
This season Hull Truck revive the reworked script of Restirred, with a distinctly 1986 setting, for a national tour.
The seedy world of the trendy 80s cocktail bar and the lives and aspirations of four of its waitresses certainly ought to withstand a revival. The pastiche of its various customers, as played out by the long-suffering waitresses that serve them with a smile, come what may, similarly ought to remain relevant for a Noughties audience.
This production, however, falls sadly short of the "raw, visceral, physical" theatre that first inspired Thornton and Godber and feels dated and uninspiring.
Direction and characterisation too often resort to caricature and cliché so that no amount of neon set design (however well realised by designer Pip Leckenby) or New Romantic soundtrack can give this the funky, retro appeal they were clearly going for.
The "tight narrative" of the reworked Restrirred script is lost here in unconvincing performances that leave the audience disengaged with the central characters. Moreover that visceral physicality that makes Godber's work come alive is lost in muddy choreography.
Which is all the more disappointing since Godber directs here.
"Shakers" tours to Leeds, Harrogate, Cambridge, Windsor and Hull
Reviewer: Allison Vale