Esk Valley Theatre

Glaisdale, near Whitby, North Yorkshire, UK


By John Godber

Production shot

Bouncers, Esk Valley Theatre

Holderness Gazette Review

Written by John Godber.

Directed by Sheila Carter and Mark Stratton.

For the last eleven years during August Glaisdale is transformed into a buzzing centre for theatre with The Robinson Institute becoming the Esk Valley Theatre. Mark Stratton and Sheila Carter are the driving force behind the company and this year as well as the summer play they have revitalised John Godber's Bouncers for a short tour.

Mark and Sheila are no strangers to Godber's work as they have produced April in Paris and September in the Rain for EVT and they first used Godber's script for Bouncers nearly thirty years ago at the Nottingham Playhouse. Bouncers was first performed as part of the 1977 Edinburgh Festival where John Godber and Peter Reeves made up the cast of two with only two people in the audience, one a theatre critic from The Scotsman and the other a drunk who later joined the cast on stage. The play has been performed all over the world since then and there is at last one amateur production of the play running in the UK.

Godber's Bouncers has bounced back so often it seems like it has never been away and once again the black tied club doormen Judd (Lee Bainbridge), Les (Andrew Gross), Ralph (Gabriel Paul) and Lucky Eric (Mark Stratton) are flexing their shoulders and straightening their ties. The music has varied over the years and the dress of the bouncers has changed but with this production the bouncers are back in black ties and evening suits as they eye up the punters arriving at the theatre.

Looking for trouble? Well you have come to the right place.

The four imposing bouncers bring their night club stories to life on the bleak stage using only empty beer barrels as props. (I nearly forgot to mention their handbags). In and out of the nightclub, girls and fellas, rough and ready, littered with drunkards shouting at barmen and believe it or not everyone having the time of their lives. Hairdressers and barbers are all part of the preparation for the Friday night out. The girls, plain Elaine, busty Maureen, Rosie and sexy Susie dance with their handbags on the floor each attracting their own kind of fella. Only the imposing figure of Lucky Eric has time to deliver his solemn and dark lines as he tries to understand his own life.

But does anyone out there listen?

Gabriel Paul teases the dancers with his quick wit, playing the smooth and lecherous DJ. The pace is fast and the atmosphere is intoxicating. This production is based on a version of Bouncers that was written in 1983 and Godber was delighted for the company to use the script with some added elements and some wonderful physical theatre directed by Mark and Sheila on such a small stage.

Your reviewer was lucky enough to see the production in Glaisdale before they embark on their tour. The theatre was perfect for the punters as they sat drinking at the tables after being scrutinised by the bouncers at the door.

The pumping, grinding and grunting will be heard for many more years to come because this is where the children of England sing; 'Ere we go, ere we go, ere we go'.

Bouncers, Esk Valley Theatre

Whitby Gazette - Friday October 23rd 2015

Review by Helen LeRoux

Cool, angry, funny, and a top night out!

The Esk Valley Theatre production is based on a version that was written in 1983 and concentrates on the characters that you find in pubs and clubs on a big night out.

Set in a Northern nightclub called Mr Cinders the action focuses on the exploits of four doormen and the clubbers. The actors play different roles with breathtaking speed and eloquence.

This concentrates the audiences appreciation of this fine quartet of actors. Lee Bainbride is Judd a rampant wannabe stud who likes nothing better than a blue film, Andrew Grose is Les, quick to agression and always ready to wade in, Gabriel Paul is Ralph, a smoother, cooler character and finally Mark Stratton as Lucky Eric, who isn't really, but delivers two heart felt soliloquies on the tragedy of young girls and the cruel cards life sometimes plays.

All actors have a fine range of typical northern accents that add to the humour and pathos around the anticipation of the coming evening, anticipation sometimes being better than the night out itself.

The staging is simple but perfectly captures a vivid picture of the relentless hedonism of a night out. It's raucous, wild, funny, tragic and rough around the edges, like the characters themselves.

The choreography ranges from dance routines around handbags, a hilarious toilet scene and weeping girls whose best friend has been dumped by her boyfriend to a slow motion fight scene.

Judd captured the Bouncer who always has an eye out for a bit of skirt, and his role grew more appealing and hilarious throughout the performance. Whereas Ralph had the calm aura of knowing he was smart, cool and oozed ladies man appeal. He also quickly turned into a silly, giggly over inebriated girl.

Les boiled and hummed with braggadicio, the bouncer who liked the idea of power and a scrap, and saying no you can't get in.

Lucky Eric often had the most poignancy and heart rending soliloquies. The banter is key and this performance has it in spades, John Godber has plenty of memorable lines for his characters.

As one of the girls describes mascara running down her face, as she see's her boyfriend with another, says: "Soon my face will look like miners back in the shower."

Co-directors Sheila Carter and Mark Stratton have done another great play and done it proud.

Bouncers, Esk Valley Theatre

York Press - Thursday 22nd October 2015

Review by Charles Hutchinson

EVERY summer, Esk Valley Theatre takes over the moorland Robinson Institute in Glaisdale, near Whitby, for a month-long production that never fails to be one of the annual delights of the Yorkshire theatre calendar.

If Mark Stratton's shows have escaped you over the past ten years, now is your chance to experience one when his EVT company goes on the road with John Godber's fly-on-the-wall nightclub drama Bouncers.

This durable physical comedy was picked to represent the year 1984 in the National Theatre's list of 100 great 20th century plays, and while always rooted in the Eighties' nightlife, Godber has penned several incarnations over more than 30 years.

Mark Stratton and co-director Sheila Carter first used Godber's 1993 version of the script for a Nottingham production nearly thirty years ago, and when they asked to do so again this autumn, albeit with added elements from later versions, Godber was happy to agree. Intriguingly, however, he had no recollection of having written a scene where a nightclub reveller is being sick in the gents.

It was a vignette new to this reviewer too but it is nevertheless typical of the boisterous vulgarity of a street-culture play that now sounds and looks like a period piece but whose ugly home truths are still being played out each weekend in every town and city.

As ever, Godber's four doormen of the apocalypse greet you beneath the neon lights outside the theatre with a prowling surliness and an aggressive form of politeness that you might otherwise call intimidation, but not to their face.

It was ever thus for Godber's Judd (Lee Bainbridge), Les (Andrew Grose), Ralph (Gabriel Paul) and veteran head bouncer Lucky Eric (Mark Stratton, in a welcome return to the stage that will continue with Northern Broadsides; watch this space).

Against the minimalist backdrop of Graham Kirk's set and lighting design of four neon-framed blocks of bricks, complemented by the obligatory four beer barrels, the bouncers also play four northern lads on the lash and four lasses on a birthday bash at Mr Cinders.

The four doormen of the apocalypse: Judd, left, Les, Lucky Eric and Ralph

Choreographed crisply by Sheila Carter, the disco night of a thousand scars hurtles through the dark hours with broad humour, rough tongues and a motley crew of cameo caricatures that over the years has become Bouncers' one weak link. Nevertheless, the breathlessly fast switches between bouncers, lads and lasses remains a theatrical marvel in a show that always feels only one lit match from combustion.

Gabriel Paul's Ralph excels, whether as the slimy DJ or sexy Suzy, while Stratton's renditions of Lucky Eric's speeches, the Godber equivalent of Shakespeare's monologue, carry a weight, sadness and savage poetry that you wish Godber would turn into a heavyweight play some day soon. A day when, like Lucky Eric, he no longer finds jokes funny any more.