A fresh look at clubland life

Ace Bhatti, William Ilkley, Don Gilet and Ian Reddington in a scene from Bouncers
Ace Bhatti, William Ilkley, Don Gilet and Ian Reddington in a scene from Bouncers

FOR 35 years, John Godber’s Bouncers has been lifting the lid on clubland.

Nightlife has changed during that period so Godber has updated and directed the play to allow for this, although, as he says, the basic concept of clubbers hasn’t altered that much.

Hence the refreshed version at Nottingham’s Theatre Royal – there’s even a topical reference to Nick Grimshaw, the new host of Radio One’s breakfast show - which certainly attracted the audiences and the laughter.

It’s a simple concept - four girls out to have fun, four lads out to pull girls and four men, the bouncers (or nowadays door security) - who have seen it all before. Contemporary doormen (or should that be doorpersons?) aim to calm a situation rather than just wade in with their fists.

But the rest remains unaltered. Relentless disco beats and flashing lights, raw energy and raucous lads and lasses out on a northern town. This is the world of the bouncers and Godber paints a vivid portrait.

Because the lads, lasses and doormen are portrayed by the same cast, acting of quality is required. This four have impressive CVs and have appeared in the popular soaps: Ace Bhatti - (EastEnders as Yusef Khan, the father of Afia Masood), Don Gilet (the killer Lucas Johnson in EastEnders), William Ilkley (The Bill, Emmerdale and Corrie) and Ian Reddington, who is the only actor to portray a leading character in the UK’s two biggest soaps: Richard Cole, aka Tricky Dicky in EastEnders and hapless drummer Vernon Tomlin in Coronation Street.

Whether it is girls dancing around their handbags or blokes setting the world to right in the gents, the quartet nail them all in impressive displays.

But they excel as the bouncers, with some devastatingly funny yet occasionally deep dialogue. It’s unfair to single anybody out but Ian Reddington as Lucky Eric is particularly good in his soliloquies.

As Godber puts it, as the girls get younger and he gets older, Eric is hanging on by his fingertips, realising that he might not be the right guy to be on the door anymore and there’s challenges and young turks coming along.

An evening of fun and food for thought, enhanced by a splendidly produced brochure which includes a section on what we were watching or listening to over the past 35 years.

Bouncers is on until Saturday, September 29 at the Theatre Royal, Nottingham.