DramaNorth WestReview

Bouncers – Royal Court Theatre, Liverpool

Reviewer: Phil Goodwin

Writer Maurice Bessman, adaptation of the original by John Godber

Director Miriam Mussa

Club culture has changed a lot since John Godber’s comedy classic Bouncers first hit the stage back in 1983. But the allure of a weekly night on the tiles and its high-octane mix of booze, sweat and tears remains as seductive as ever.

Liverpool’s Boisterous Theatre wowed audiences three years ago with its energetic “urban remix” adaptation of the smash hit show. And now the four doormen of the dancefloor apocalypse are back – Les, Judd, Ralph and Lucky Eric – to bring calm, wit and slip in the occasional sly dig when the CCTV cameras are turned off.

The non-stop action is punctuated by moments of worldly wisdom – ruminations on the nature of existence and the pitfalls of youthful over-indulgence – via speeches number one, two and three by the elder of the quartet, Lucky Eric.

But the power of this production is in its celebration of the unbridled joy and absurdity of clubbing: the prep, the preloading, the outfits and outrageous attempts to “cop off”. The 2018 cast – Mutty Burman, Michael Horsley, Zain Salim and Joe Speare – also return, with tunes by Liverpool club favourite DJ Spycatcha.

The pacy production sees the black-clad door supervisors morphing in and out of more than 20 characters – posh “rugger buggers”, wide-boy punters, lads out on the razzle and, perhaps best of all, four hilarious, lovesick and lusty Liverpool girls.

Director Miriam Mussa fuses a seamless blend of set pieces – sketches, dance routines, acapella songs and slow-motion fight sequences – resetting each time to our doughty door supervisors, security training badges fixed firmly on their arms.

The sense of a shared club experience is enhanced by the cabaret lounge style of the new Royal Court stalls, backed by a delightful soul soundtrack from the live DJ and patrolled with cheeky menace by the cast ahead of curtain up and during the interval.

Boisterous was conceived to nurture and promote Black, Asian and minority ethnic creatives and this show demands our modern-day bouncers contend with issues of gender and race. These bouncers grapple, with humour and grace, with the ever-changing terminology – of LGBTQ and BAME – along with the dangers of internet porn and the exploitation of young girls.

The finale sees the cast throwing some impressive shapes in a rousing mash-up of Uptown Funk. The spontaneous dancing among the table seating will warm the hearts of the watching founders of Boisterous, whose aim is also to bring live theatre to a non-traditional audience.

The show ends with an invitation to the whole theatre to join the cast in the Courtyard pub next door. Zain Salim, aka bouncer Ralph and the company’s movement director, throws down a final clubbing gauntlet: “If you don’t come, you’re boring!”

Writer Maurice Bessman’s reboot is anything but… It is an enormously entertaining, laugh-out-loud journey down the road of excess.

Runs until September 11, 2021

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The North West team is under the editorship of John McRoberts. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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