Tuesday, May 28

Bouncers – Octagon Theatre

Since its debut at the 1977 Edinburgh Festival, Bouncers has enjoyed countless revivals and tours. To a first-time viewer, though, this iteration of the classic, northern nightclub comedy suggests that last orders were called a long while ago.

An interchangeable quartet of mostly-like-minded bouncers work the doors of Mr Cinders: their interactions and observations are interspersed with the activities of different sets of partygoers, from celebrating girls to pseudo-alpha males.

Under the direction of Jane Thornton, the piece promptly establishes exactly who its target audience is, as the doormen proudly declare that, in their pocket of the 1980s, “nothing is woke”. The uttering of this tiresome phrase lays the foundation for the humour that is to follow: fat jokes, gay jokes, women jokes…Bouncers presides over a space in which people are invited to revel in outdated comedy- with plenty of fart noises thrown in for good measure.

Though writer John Godber wants an audience to think otherwise, there is next to no social commentary within the script. Hollow material brings the whole purpose of Bouncers into question; attempts to be heartfelt and poetical through Lucky Eric’s (Frazer Hammill) speeches evoke nothing.

The 80s setting itself is largely unestablished, other than one reference to Thatcher and the (excellent) selection of songs- but these timeless hits continue to be played in every city’s clubs to this day. They could have been better chosen to integrate with the story, rather than random clippings slotted in to transition between scenes.

Equal kudos goes to Frazer Hammill, Nick Figgis, Tom Whittaker and George Reid for engrossing performances of Lucky Eric, Judd, Ralph and Les. They adopt and switch between roles with both deft and passion, entertaining with gyration-heavy dancing as well as confident physical theatre. Graham Kirk’s intimate set may not incorporate many props, but this allows the troupe to be inventive with their movements.

When a show relies on perpetuating stereotypes and reeling off the names of brands to get laughs, it really is time to shut up shop.

Bouncers continues at Octagon Theatre, Bolton until 20th April with tickets available from https://octagonbolton.co.uk/events/bouncers#dates-and-times

Reviewer: Scot Cunningham

Reviewed: 9th April 2024

North West End UK Rating:

Rating: 2 out of 5.