Considering Bouncers was added to the Royal Court’s summer programme late in the day (due to the cancellation of the scheduled revival of One Night in Istanbul), it feels just right. The 80s modern classic by John Godber – apparently in the audience on press night – has naturally been a little Scousified, with the action taking place in and around the Grafton, and as such would appear pretty much made to measure.
A tale of four doormen keeping an eye over a regular weekend at a regular club, there was philosophical Lucky Eric (Paul Broughton), regular guy Judd (Michael Starke), standoffish Ralph (Mark Womack) and young blood Les (Danny O’Brien). The four also double up as the punters, from punks and students to a drunken girls’ night out.
Surprisingly little happens in this play – a production of Godber’s Teechers at the Actors Studio earlier in the year had more going for it in terms of substantial plot – with Lucky Eric breaking the fourth wall to announce the interval in the absence of any real drama whatsoever. However, the vivid depiction of the rigmarole of a night on the town resonates with audiences in a mix of nostalgia and silliness.
With the title of the play writ large in neon as if marking the door of a gaudy 80s club, the cast simply use beer barrels to construct their set as they work through the series of sketches. Michael Starke is brilliant value as ever, expertly milking the laughs and bouncing off the others, and Danny O’Brien is a welcome and lively presence on the Royal Court stage. Paul Broughton brings the right mix of light and shade to Lucky Eric, and Mark Womack – last seen at the venue in Hope – somehow stands alone from the others with a comparatively understated performance (rocking a tux with some style, though).
Bouncers doesn’t have very much to say but is consistently a hit with audiences who can’t resist a disco tune, a trip down memory lane, and the spectacle of the ultimate manly men camping it up. You can see where it inspired the likes of Royal Court productions such as Slappers and Slapheads and the like, and there is no doubt it has found a place where it can be right at home.