Bouncers (heartBeast) – theatre review

With wrists stamped, audiences enter into the reckless LED-lit world of a Brisbane nightclub. They’re entering Bouncers – and all the abandon that show entails. The observational account of a Friday night from heartBeast Theatre, features four male cast members, Chris Vaag, Campbell Lindsey, Peter Condon and Rowan Howard. Dressed in suit and tie ensembles, they play all the parts… the four titular bouncers, but also four young men and four young women all out for a night on the town. And just as the four bouncers themselves are very different, so we soon see, every night has its own narrative too. From rugby louts to nights when the over ‘30s are let loose, there are no holds barred in this very funny but sometimes shockingly brutal portrayal.

There is no set as such, which suits both the style of production and its staging in the historic 140 year old Spring Hill Reservoir under Wickham Terrace. This allows the action to move quickly as the actors skilfully convey their locations, from a late afternoon hairdressers to early morning nightclub toilets and all the stops in between. Clearly this is a demanding show with performers barely off stage and frequently switching between characters, and to their credit, the cast all deliver the relentless energy required to bring the ensemble work to life. Under the direction of David Paterson and Sherri Smith, the stage traffic is handled very well, allowing for the four actors to enliven the work with engaging comic timing and sustained physicality, particularly as the female characters strutting hand-on-hip with handbags over their shoulders, and Rowan Howard is particularly memorable as still-teenager, Bicardi-boozing sexy Susie.

From late afternoon anticipation of a big night out to after-midnight woes of running tears and mascara and an early morning taxi (but not Uber?) back to Browns Plains, Bouncers makes for an easy-to-follow set of stories that might be small in scale but is most definitely big in entertainment thanks to its multi role playing, along with the use of monologue and the actors directly addressing the audience

When its UK playwright John Godber first wrote the play in the late 1970s, it was from a dissatisfaction with naturalism and a desire to create a piece of work where the audience were not distracted by the design elements but were engaged with the performances of the actors. In consideration of this, heartBeast’s Bouncers is a triumph. Although there is still an essential UK feel to it, according to a +1 who knows, updates are seamless, meaning that Australian political mentions and more modern references work well.

The play has a lot of often-laddish comedy in its primal ritual re-enactment, which might not be to everyone’s tastes, but underlying its strong language, and lewd and vulgar humour are some sharp observations about the drunken behaviour on display in the crude carnival of nightlife. Indeed, Bouncers is both a warning and a celebration, which in the hands of four versatile actors such as these, makes for an entertaining show to be enjoyed without too much audience effort.

Venue: Spring Hill Reservoirs
Dates: 10 – 31 March 2018

Meredith Walker
For more of Meredith Walker’s theatre reviews, check out Blue Curtains Brisbane.

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