Written by John Godber. Directed by Sherri Smith and David Paterson. Presented by HeartBeast Theatre. Spring Hill Reservoir (Qld). 10 - 31 March, 2018

The latest production of the 70’s classic Bouncers is energetic, accessible and packed full of humour. The cast of four (Peter Condon as Eric, Rowan Howard as Ralph, Chris Vaag as Judd and Campbell Lindsay as Les) give it their all and have nothing left in the tank by curtain call. They work very effectively together and are clearly well-rehearsed. No one actor stands above the rest; all are well matched in skill.

The Spring Hill Reservoir stage is literally inside an old water reservoir. It’s six meters underground, all concrete and brick with a stage set in the centre and audience in the round. You view the stage through the old reservoir archways that restrict sight lines and therefore what a director can do with the blocking. All of the brick and concrete echoes the sound and bounces it upward, forcing the cast to over-project in order to compensate.

Fortunately, directors Sherri Smith and David Paterson have blocked the actors effectively and the play lends itself to the kind of bombast that suits a bit of over-projection. The only problem is, when they do aim for quieter moments to balance the non-stop energy, shouting and mayhem, some of the dialogue is lost to the reservoir’s cavernous sound sucking. As a result, the show does feel a little lacking in contrast.

Audiences love the play’s pace and non-stop laugh-out-loud humour. Many of the characters being parodied are very recognisable and relatable. Much of the script from 1977 UK (later remixed and updated in 1983 for Yorkshire, in 1991 as the ‘90s remix and 2000 with added exclamation mark on the title for TV) is altered to suit 2018 Brisbane. That adds to the humour and reliability.

Some of the comedy is a bit dated and some of the misogyny might irk feminists. It’s good to remember that the author is holding a mirror up to some of the most degraded and animalistic sides of humanity. By writing about the behaviour, he’s not condoning it, merely making us observe and think about it. To show us the people who objectify and manipulate for sexual gain isn’t to say one approves of that behaviour.

The weakest sections in Bouncers are the raps at the start and end of the show. The cast has trouble sticking to the beat. Their commitment to the genre, however, can’t be faulted. The rest of the music is fantastic and really well chosen by sound designer Mark Richardson. The choreography is fun and lively. Costuming is simple, but effective. Lighting by Emily Allen and Paige Williams adds to the atmosphere, and is especially effective in the slow-motion fight scenes.

Bouncers is an excellent example of what disgraceful animals some drunks become when out on the town binge drinking. It explores lad culture, superficial young ladies and the flawed courtship rituals of the club set. It does so in such a humorous fashion, it doesn’t feel mean spirited or too ‘heavy’, yet still leaves you with food for thought.

Kiesten McCauley 

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