DramaNorth East & YorkshireReview

Shakers – East Riding Theatre, Beverley

Writers: John Godber, Jane Thornton

Director: John Godber

Set/Lighting: Graham Kirk

Reviewer: Ron Simpson

Shakers, written by John Godber and Jane Thornton in 1985 as a sister piece to Godber’s Bouncers, has undergone various re-writes over the years. This latest version, performed by the John Godber Company at the East Riding Theatre, retains the 1980s setting, but is tagged with a rhyming prologue and epilogue that point out how different things were then – and how similar.

The play echoes Bouncers in charting the progress of an evening out, in this case mainly through the eyes of the waitresses at Shakers cocktail bar, but also through the experiences of their customers, played, of course, by the same four actors. Mostly these are brief cameos, caricatured and often very funny, with the cast turning on a sixpence for instant changes of character, class and even gender. Godber and Thornton mine most possible forms of ignorance for humour, from the couple struggling to pronounce the items on the menu to the pretentious theatre goers who are astonished to find that there really was an Eva Peron. Were there really so many different types of braying upper class (real and false) twits around in 1985? In Hull?

One group only are followed through for the whole evening, young women celebrating a 21st birthday, from finishing work on the tills to choosing new outfits to getting staggering drunk to the tears of the birthday girl because the man she fancies is with another woman. Throughout they operate largely as a group, not individuals. 

However, the waitresses themselves, though smartly going through the well-rehearsed synchronised manoeuvres as a group, emerge as individual well-defined characters. Each steps out of the action once to deliver a short monologue which gives a context to her actions and reactions. Carol (Annie Kirkman) has a degree and aspirations to be a photographer and resents any implications that anyone in her job must be stupid (on the evidence of this play, that’s the customers!). Mel (Laura Aramayo) is much more pragmatic in her approach to the job, but has a secret that might undermine the key relationship in her life. For Adele (Amy Thompson) having a young child makes keeping her job both more essential and more difficult, while Nicky (Kate Huntsman) is both excited and terrified by the prospect of a daring change of career – the first problem is daring to tell her parents.

Nothing much develops by way of plot during a quiet night at Shakers. The manager’s intention to make them all wear shorts provokes a little clash of political ideologies between Carol and Mel, but this remains unresolved. The play works well both as a simple entertainment and as a subtler examination of the reality beneath the false smiles of the waitresses.

Though the John Godber Company is based at the Theatre Royal, Wakefield, this is very much an East Riding undertaking, with the four excellent actors all having strong Beverley or Hull backgrounds. So, too, has Graham Kirk who designed the attractively geometric black and white set.

Runs until 20 May 2017 | Image: Contributed

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The Yorkshire & North East team is under the editorship of Mark Clegg. 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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