Bouncers at Welwyn Garden City theatre

17:18 03 June 2014

Peter Dawson, Joshua Banks and Jim Kinloch in Bouncers at the Barn Theatre in Welwyn Garden City [Picture: John Davies]

Peter Dawson, Joshua Banks and Jim Kinloch in Bouncers at the Barn Theatre in Welwyn Garden City [Picture: John Davies]

John Davies

There is another chance to see half of the Barn Theatre’s recent production of Bouncers & Shakers at the Welwyn Drama Festival this week. Bouncers, by John Godber, can be seen at the Hawthorne Theatre, in Welwyn Garden City, on Thursday, June 5. Joseph Kerr reviews the play.

Bouncers at the Barn Theatre [Picture: Simon Wallace / MeltingPot Pictures]Bouncers at the Barn Theatre [Picture: Simon Wallace / MeltingPot Pictures]

John Godber, whose double bill played at the Barn earlier this year, was shown in a 1993 survey to be the third most performed playwright in Britain (after Shakespeare and Ayckbourn).

One can easily understand why: he takes the experiences of ordinary people and turns them into true-to-life but highly theatrical entertainment.

Bouncers is about four men who stand on the door at a nightclub in the North of England.

Shakers, which propelled him to instant fame, concerns four waitresses in a cocktail bar.

Bouncers at the Barn Theatre [Picture: Simon Wallace / MeltingPot Pictures]Bouncers at the Barn Theatre [Picture: Simon Wallace / MeltingPot Pictures]

Both plays have the same combination of gritty realism and high theatrical artifice.

The realism is all about the characters, their private and working lives, and the lives of the people, often drunk, with whom they have to deal.

The artifice lies in the minimalist black set, a counter and four bar stools in the case of Shakers, and just four beer barrels in the case of Bouncers.

In both pieces the four actors also play several other parts, mostly their customers, of both sexes.

Bouncers at the Barn Theatre [Picture: Simon Wallace / MeltingPot Pictures]Bouncers at the Barn Theatre [Picture: Simon Wallace / MeltingPot Pictures]

The main roles they play straight, but their portrayal of the customers is deliberately satirical and over the top.

It requires a considerable degree of acting skill to ensure that we understand at every moment who it is that the actors are playing.

Popular though they may be, these plays are an ambitious choice for any non-professional theatre to perform, even one as experienced and well provided with acting talent as the Barn.

Most of the time they succeeded triumphantly.

There were one or two unclear moments, but in general one could only applaud the considerable skill of the actors in showing us every side of the rather sleazy night life that seems to rule in so many provincial towns in Britain.

Of the two plays, I found Shakers the more appealing; the characters of the overworked waitresses were a lot more sympathetic than the macho males who ruled the roost in Bouncers.

But if you haven’t yet encountered the works of John Godber, this production, ably directed by Hannah Sayer and John Keogh, would be a good place to start.

* Bouncers can be seen again at the Hawthorne Theatre, Campus West, Welwyn Garden City, on Thursday, June 5 as part of the Welwyn Drama Festival.

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