Tuesday, May 28

Bouncers – Rainhill Village Hall

Rainhill Musical Theatre Company return to the stage with a bang and a bounce with their production of John Godber’s classic 1977 play covering an evening working the doors of a nightclub for four bored doormen and their likely clientele: four young beer swilling lads hoping to get lucky, and four excitable teenage girls out for a bit of dancing, drinking, and whatever the eye might fancy, including visits to hairdressers in its build-up and fast-food vendors in the climactic come down.

Other than the excellent writing, what makes this such a clever piece of theatre is that all the roles throughout are portrayed by four bouncers – Lucky Eric (Paul Robinson), Les (Ben Evans-Clarke), Judd (K. Ellis), and Ralph (Aidan Maj) – who, with the simplest of sets, the minimum of props, and no costume changes, give their all to make for an evening of high energy entertainment and laughter.

The interchanges between characters are numerous and executed smoothly throughout with distinct voice changes and recognisable physical actions keeping the audience engaged. To move between burly bouncer, giggly girl, and brawling boy in the blink of an eye demands a high level of skill and dexterity in performance which we got in droves with strong performances from all the cast, aided by superb and perfectly timed choreography from Bryan Dargie-Lynch, that took us through frantic dance routines to slow motion fight scenes and even a ‘rewind’ in the hilarious video re-enactment. The taxi scene was a delightful demonstration of skilful physical theatre.

What sets this play above others in a similar vein are the break for monologues from the elder and wiser Eric which provide a poignant reminder of our vulnerability in stark contrast to the obvious excitement and energy of a night out that often extends to binge drinking, casual sex, and violence: you could feel the deep intake of breath in the audience from Robinson’s poised and pointed performance.

There is always the risk of over-playing the stereotypes we are presented with, so it was pleasing to see performances that got that balance just right. From Ellis’ intense characterisation to Evan-Clarke’s joie-de-vie, one couldn’t escape the realisation that for all the hype each of their characters outwardly displays in this very funny play, their lives are ultimately desperately empty as they seek salvation and solace from a night out. What did shine however was Maj in his many incarnations: he has a bright future ahead of him

This is a guaranteed evening of laugh out-loud entertainment, but I would challenge you to look that little bit closer as well – amidst the humour is a strong social message cleverly delivered, with Elliot Bailey’s concise and brave direction allowing a talented cast the space in which to perform.

As well as celebrating a return to theatre, tonight also represented Rainhill Musical Theatre Company’s 70th year of performance and in a slight change to normal, a foray into straight theatre – albeit with strong musical accompaniment – whose success is best measured by the high level of audience interaction throughout and deserved applause at the end. I can’t be the only one though who would have liked them go out on a number.

Thankfully, we won’t have long to wait for their next production with Dr Dolittle pencilled in for 12th-14th November this year.

Reviewer: Mark Davoren

Reviewed: 10th September 2021

North West End UK Rating: ★★★★