Bouncers at Bury

Bouncers: John Godber, Theatre Royal, Bury St Edmunds until September 29

Bouncers: John Godber, Theatre Royal, Bury St Edmunds until September 29

It's a familiar urban image. A throbbing downtown nightclub, packed with drinkers and dancers. At the door a couple of forbidding and twitchy bouncers watch people in and out. Outside a wobbly-legged girl with smudgy eyes is sick against the wall, while a group of lads shout foul abuse into the night sky.

Those of us who're long past such goings on could well ask ourselves whatever is going on in these folks' heads. John Godber's non-stop explosion of disciplined theatricality tries to answer that. He takes us inside urban Friday nightlife.

Four actors reveal it to us through the eyes of four menacing bouncers, four Northern blokes out on the beer and four clubbing girls on the pull. They change characters with no more than a set of gold handbags as props.

John Godber first did Bouncers with his Hull Truck Theatre Company thirty years ago. As writer, director and copyright holder, Godber has always been able to update the references - so we have Primark and Chris Moyles rather than whatever it was thirty years ago.

The only, rather oddly anachronistic scene is the showpiece sequence when the lads rent out a blue video to watch. We see them showing the movie on, of all things, a film projector. When it breaks down and the lads rewind it and everyone does everything backwards - brilliantly and at breakneck speed - you can understand why Godber wouldn't sacrifice such a spectacular scene just for the sake of being up-to-date.

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This isn't a play with developed characterisation, it's a tightly ordered story of the night told through a series of fast-moving, snapshot, almost cartoon, set-piece scenes, separated one from another by a burst of dry ice.

It's a belly-achingly funny night. I got cramp just from laughing. I warn you, though, you need to be able to cope with scraping-the-barrel, male urinal humour.

The four actors - James Hornsby, Marc Bolton, Matthew Booth, and Jack Brady- are just superb, both with the comedy and the ever-present menace.

There's even a slightly soulful half-nod towards Dylan Thomas in the way the urban centre is finally depicted.

We're allowed to stand aside and wonder at the reason for the binge-drinking, preening-to-vomiting, nightlife culture with which we've become familiar.

Perhaps it's really a fear of loneliness.

Ivan Howlett

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