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Your Name's Not Down, You're Not Coming In

Bouncers. Photo courtesy of the Albany Theatre.

Bouncers at the Albany Theatre until Tuesday 5 March.

Review by Annette Kinsella

Your name’s not down you’re not coming in: comedy exposes bleak underbelly of nightlife.

Bouncers: in many ways the 20th century equivalent of the Roman emperor, wielding the power of entry and exclusion to the nightclub, shaping the destinies of ponytailed punters with one laconic flick of the thumb up or down.

Bouncers, the latest show at the Albany Theatre, thrusts us back into the seedy underbelly of northern 80s nightlife against the shimmering backdrop of Mr Cinders, the club at which the lives of doormen Lucky Eric (Frazer Hammill), Judd (Nick Figgis), Les (George Reid) and Ralph (Tom Whittaker) play out.

However, the multi-talented four-strong cast do not just limit themselves to these roles – over the course of the play they transform into the gaggle of girls celebrating a birthday, the beer-sozzled lads on the lookout for a last-dance snog, the punks and football fans turned away at the door, and the cheese-fest DJ MCing the 80s chart hit soundscape.

Drama at the Albany. Photo courtesy of the Albany Theatre.

It is testament to the competency of the actors and the skill of playwright John Godber’s dialogue that the characters flip seamlessly into each other, with only the odd sparkly clutch bag or microphone giving clues to each new identity.

Although in the first act the show threatens to slip into Willy Russell-esque farce, by the end of the show we are left in no doubt that what we have seen is so much more. The mature, battle-scarred Lucky Eric lifts a corner of the curtain on his lonely bedsit life after the departure of his wife, gazing out to the myriad of city lights as he wonders aloud what dramas are unfolding through each window.

Meanwhile, Suzie (Tom Whittaker) is left numb, munching on cold pizza through series of unfulfilling romantic encounters, ready to do the same the week after.

Talented 4-strong cast. Photo courtesy of the Albany Theatre

Despite this, the moments of light relief come thick and fast, with the depiction of a Swedish porn film set on fast rewind due to a defunct video recorder something I won’t forget in a hurry.

The show is billed as a remix of the original 1977 play, with the odd nod to woke-ism and social commentary thrown in, However, the issues originally highlighted by Godber – the futility of a bleak working class existence in which the weekend is the only highlight, and the exploitation of young girls who fall victim to predators after having one too many – require little updating to remain relevant today. We are left with the view that these bouncers, the night watchmen of society, have seen it all before – and will see it all again next weekend, and all the weekends stretching out to infinity.


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