Writer: John Godber and Jane Thornton
Director: Megan Griffith
Reviewer: Harriet Mallion
John Godber’s 1985 play Shakers has often been described as a seminal piece, perfectly adaptable, and a popular choice for female audition pieces throughout the 80s and 90s. Celebrated for exploring challenges faced by women from all walks of life, Shakers does not shy away from difficult themes and provided a pertinent social commentary. Director Megan Griffiths and Deaf Dog Theatre Company have recognised the persistent relevance of many of these themes, and with some careful tweaks and innovative staging, they have shaken it firmly into the 21st Century.
In this fully immersive production of Shakers, performed in Hope Mill Theatre Bar, the audience are invited to take a seat while waitresses Mel (Amy Drake), Carol (Heather Carroll), Adele (Natalie Fletcher) and Nikki (Eve Burley) spin past the audience delivering their lines while balancing trays full of cocktails.
Before the performance starts, the audience is gently prepped and encouraged to interact with the cast wherever possible. There are options to pre-order a selection of specially created cocktails, which will be delivered directly to tables throughout the performance. There is even the tempting suggestion that some audience members will receive free drinks and sure enough a refreshing vodka and orange soon appeared at this reviewer’s elbow with “compliments of the management.”
The play touches on some poignant female plights, the struggle of juggling both a job and a family, and the limitations of social barriers, sexualisation and stereotypes. As tensions rise between Mel and Adele, it becomes clear that although they scorn each other’s dilemmas they secretly envy their opportunities. The production sees a powerful emotional performance from Amy Drake in a difficult monologue and hilarious characterisation from Eve Burley as she flits between various characters.
The all-female cast demonstrates proficient talent in their ability to switch seamlessly between a multitude of different characters and stereotypes. Between them, they create the leering husbands, the over-excitable birthday girl, the flirts, the skirts, the poseurs, and the cliques that haunt popular drinking establishments worldwide. All while consistently taking orders, clearing tables, pouring drinks and delivering their own unique character’s commentary.
This piece lends itself to an immersive performance and the cast weaves and twirl around packed out tables to create performance spaces in unlikely places. Unfortunately, this poses some problems with technical support, the music is sometimes lost across the busy room and the lighting rig is regrettably directly in our eye line making some scenes a little glaring.
This all-female production is the latest immersive experience at Hope Mill Theatre, which is quickly creating a name for itself among the performing arts scene in Manchester.
Runs until 20 August2016 | Image: Contributed