TOBY PARKER REES & JESSICA PATTERSON are on the door. Shit plays aren’t getting in. ‘Bouncers’ goes home alone.
Corpus Playroom, 6-13th, 7pm. £5-6.
Directed by Stephen Bailey | ZERO STARS
The publicity for Bouncers made the coalitionish claim that we’d be witness to ‘Girls on a night out, lads on tour and even pornstars meld[ing] together into an intoxicating tapestry which incessantly mocks the flaws and failings of modern life in hilarious fashion whilst also asking the question of why humanity is quite so full of chaotic failure and despair’.
That is, of course, an awful sentence, but the play was worse. Brevity being the soul and all that, we would have reduced this to ‘LOL, PEASANTS’. John Godber’s noxious script is only a villainous immigrant away from being a theatrical Daily Mail. Lines such as ‘Mam, the rent man’s ‘ere!’ answered with ‘Alright, show him to the bedroom’ are hateful and ubiquitous. Worse, they are played for laughs.
Godber’s attempts to have his shit-cake and eat it by calling this social comment (a phrase repeated throughout, with all the metatheatrical wit of Vinnie Jones winking at the camera) hold no water. Salacious, sub-Kaiser Chiefs depictions of contemporary nightlife are suffixed by ‘because they think they have to’; well you aren’t helping, Godber. You dick.
We are not particularly earnest people;if political correctness meant anything beyond being nice we wouldn’t bother. We are also quite adept at taking a joke. Unfortunately there weren’t any on offer. Here’s an example of one the less dreadful offerings of humour:
‘This job’s all about ego’
‘That’s Frankenstein’s brother’
‘Err, that’s Igor.’
LOL. At least that ‘joke’ avoided the cringeworthy topics of shagging a ‘chinky’ or saving up your dole for KFC. Those peasants, right? Jessica, a northerner educated at a comprehensive, was frequently beset by violent waves of middle class guilt whilst watching our fellow students mock the masses. That’s not on. Obviously the script is to blame, but no one involved was forced to stage it – although the inexplicably frequent dance routines had an air of the pressgang.
Written first in 1977, this ‘remix’ from 1991 has nothing to say about 2010. Unless you happened to be unaware that young people get drunk and it’s not always enjoyable. Or that bouncers are often psychotic, and, more often, cunts. In fact, if you’ve ever been on a night out before you’re probably at an advantage to Godber and those involved in this production. You might have learnt, for example, that all women are not Kenneth Williams; all working class people don’t sound like mid-century village policemen; or that it’s not particularly common for groups of men to rent porn (there’s the internet) and masturbate together (there’s solitude). You may also discover that bouncers are rarely called Ralph.
We have both seen better GCSE productions of this play, and those were fairly awful. Transitions between the four actors’ various rizla-thin ‘characters’ were lumpen and lazily blocked. No one convinced as a bouncer, each substituting over-rehearsed scowls for acting.
The experience was like being kicked in the head (metaphorically and, in one characteristically poor piece of audience interaction, literally) by immaturity. There is a reason that this piece is one of the most performed for GCSE: teenage boys can piss about and still get decent marks for throwing in a few ‘theatrical conventions’. Thrown in they were; red lights, strobe lights (Toby, recently epileptic, began hoping for the excuse of a seizure) and even crosscutting. We felt spoilt. Well, sick.