Sometimes we just get a light bulb moment, when something just takes on an unexpected new meaning. This was the surprising and enlightening case whilst watching 'Bouncer's Remix' performed by Bite My Thumb this evening. Bouncers is a play I am very familiar with having directed it myself 12 years ago, so I took my seat wondering how Neil Knipe's direction a decade later, would differ from my own interpretation. What I didn't factor in was the audience age group.
This performance was delivered to secondary school age students yet, bravely the actors did not hold back or temper down the colourful language, innuendo or risqué physicality that serve to add the gritty realism of the piece and the juxtaposition to its morals and self-examining. Yes, some of the mirrors that were held up tonight to the audience missed their mark due to the audiences lack of personal experience. But, what did happen , rather than an adult interpretation of 'Oh my God, it's me!' was that this performance almost became a piece of Theatre in Education, a warning, a vehicle on which those students began to question if that is how they wanted to be and how they wanted to act. The show took on a semi pantomime quality that engaged the young audience and brought them willingly to judge the actions of the patrons of the nightclub scene, a nightclub scene that they would very soon become their own playground.
The cast was strong as a collective, they gelled superbly as a unit but remained defined individuals in all guises. The energy, physicality and pace of this performance was its strength. This rollercoaster of a performance powered on and never felt anything other than exhilarating adding a very visual meaning to Elaine's 'sweating like a racehorse!’ The role of Lucky Eric was played by Richard Billings, a consummate performer, this multiple role approached suited him well. His transitions between characters was seamless and his Maureen character had the audience in stitches. Yet, it was his Lucky Eric speeches that spoke loudest to me, particularly the iconic Christmas speech. Even with an audience that did not immediately understand the depth and poignancy of this, Billings undeterred, masterfully and without compromise commanded the respect of young audience. Sterling performance.
A massive well done to Simon Reece in his role of Judd, I was totally convinced by this actor, his stage presence was second to none and was I drawn to watch him even in more sedentary sections. The husky masculine tones in his voice only added to the hilarity of Elaine's character. But it was in his role of Judd that Reece excelled, his comedic delayed timing was perfection.
Les was played by Ben Chamberlain and the role really suited his physical appearance, his pogo-ing punk was a highlight and the audience really got behind him as Rosie with the 'awww's' he watched his ex of 2 days kissing another. Neil Knipe directed and played the role of Ralph, again this was the perfect casting. I have never seen a stronger interpretation of the DJ at Mr. Cinders and made all the more disturbing after the revelations of the last few years of 80's DJ's antics. Knipe has a wonderfully clear tone to his voice and his diction and articulation are superb. Add to these four competent actors, two beer barrels and some authentic choreography to legendary 80's music and you have a great night of enlightening entertainment on so many levels.
So I suppose the question is did it work, was this show suitable for this age range (13 to 18)?... answer.. absolutely! The bad language wasn't a shock to these kids, they hear it daily if we are honest with ourselves, the grotesque physicality was to them, in its simplest form, just that... grotesque and revolting. They had no prior romanticised experience to read into it as we adults do, they saw it as plainly a detached nasty action.
The beauty and longevity of this show has always been the way it transcends eras and holds a mirror up to each individual and to each person it has a different reflection. Even after 35 years it still holds its power of self-examination and it is a poignant and powerful reminder of how self-destructive we are as a race. The clock may tick but we are still making the same human mistakes, but perhaps the young audience of Bouncers today, may just think twice when their leisure time, surplus cash and lack of anything meaningful to do, comes along. The show concluded with a Q&A session with some questions that really showed the engagement of the young audience.
I applaud the cast of Bouncers for this brave move to bring thought provoking theatre to our young people, for enthusing them with the love of the arts and for showing them the power of performance. Well done guys a very successful night's work!
Reviewer: Tracey Bell
Reviewed: 24th May 2018