Written by John Godber
Directed by Bob Eaton
Royal Court, Liverpool
19th July - 17th August 2013

Reviewed by Joe Coventry

Back to the future

It's 1985 again, and what a night of 'in your face' theatre this turns out to be as John Godber's well travelled play turns up at the city's perfect venue for his hilarious comedy.

The atmosphere was crackling from the off as the cast mingled with the crowd, shaking hands and exchanging small talk, in their immaculately turned out tuxedos and bow-ties, courtesy of Moss Bros. Over the loudspeakers a stern warning to turn off mobile phones; a nice touch this, as no-one had them in those days.

The cast of four, no strangers to the stage in Liverpool, were not about to disappoint. As the lights went up on a minimalist stage, four beer barrels backed by a neon sign, Director Bob Eaton's action got under way with them musing on the rewards of life as gatekeepers to the post pub mayhem of the infamous, much loved and now gone, Grafton Rooms.

Lucky Eric (Paul Broughton), is the thinker and philosopher of the quartet while Judd (Michael Starke) is an archetypal scouse scally. Of the younger two, Les (Danny O'Brien), is more aggressive and the possessor of a short fuse of a temper, while Ralph (Mark Womack),is more rounded and emotionally sympathetic to some of the sexual and behavioral tendencies escaping societal taboo thirty years ago.

There was much more to do though than stand out in the cold or rain until the early hours. Whether on the door or beyond it the actors proceded to roll off a whole night's worth of scenarios that epitomised what it was like to go 'clubbing' in those halcyon days The audience loved it. From the early night beer guzzle in the pub to the brazen attempt to look sober crossing the rubicon into the inner sanctum; or the need to get back out unscathed, or with new company if you "tapped off"; that was what it was all about. For the less lucky it was the hot dog man, depleted pockets or the camararderie antics of the taxi ride home.

The touch of genius was that the actors also tapped into the girls' experiences with the addition of one added prop. Whether it was dancing around the eponymous handbags on the floor in their new Chelsea Girl dresses, the bitchy asides, or discussing the shock loss of a boyfriend, 'she knew I'd been going out with him for two days!' or the inevitable follow up tears and runny mascara, 'my face looks like a coal miner's back', or the ubiquitous chicken-in-the-basket moment it was brilliant. then, when back as the 'the boys'and comparing their manhood in the toilet as the prelude to the predatory last dance 'I don't fancy your's' routine, it was all there.

It's because most of us have been there and lived out similar moments that this play is such a success. In remembering the awkward dance movements', less than perfect singing, the swearing and sometimes unpolitically correct dialogue and drunkenness, the audience laughed at itself and loved it. A fabulous night out of memories for most and for the sizable younger contingent present enough to warn that it might not always work out as you would like.

The play runs until 17th August. Don't miss out.

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