by John Godber and Jane Thornton.
Queen’s Theatre Billet Lane RM11 1QT To 13 October 2012.
Tue-Sat 8pm Mat 6, 11 Oct 2.30pm.
Audio-described/BSL Signed 6 Oct 2.30pm.
Runs 1hr 55min One interval.
TICKETS: 01708 443333.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 1 October.
A stirring Shakers.
While John Godber directs a revival of his Bouncers on tour, this riposte about young women waitresses, co-written with Jane Thornton, reaches the Queen’s. In southern accents the smart customers sound really posh, moving cocktail-bar Shakers upmarket. But the gap between the waitresses’ plastic smiles and their contemptuous facial expressions behind customer backs, or thoughts spoken out-loud, remain forceful as ever.
Despite necessarily updated references to keep in the swim of today’s Friday nights out, Shakers breathes a 1980s atmosphere of affluence, glittering prices accommodated by credit cards willingly wielded, and a sense of excitement at women empowered, while men still think their commonplace innuendoes come across as wit.
The Shakers sheen is transparently fake. The bubble of easy credit and illusory element of female freedom is clear, with the male boss insisting the women wear shorts. In the end, money, and their need for it, does the talking.
In early productions, the Bouncers-style presentation jumped to the fore, sudden transformation of characters between staff and customers and cross-sex playing (with aptly crude mockery of male body language) grabbing audience attention.
That’s still evident – there’s a wittily-pointed moment of ego-deflation involving adjustable seats – while designer Claire Lyth expresses the frenetically shallow world in sleekly stylish panels and glittering costumes, exuberantly lit by Andy Smart. But the production’s distinguished by the individuality of each character, from graduate Carol who can only land a job here, to Mel for whom waitressing is what’s expected from life and who attacks anyone showing contempt for a job she sees stretching into her future.
The characters’ solo speeches are treated by director Matt Devitt and his cast as insights into each character’s vulnerable core, so they acquire a Shakespearean depth. All are gripping, with Laura Pitt-Pulford’s Nicky especially memorable, as she escapes into a job dancing, Pitt-Pulford exposes the anxieties of someone attempting to reassure herself while gradually exposing what there is to worry about in the life to come. You feel for her, as by the end you do for all four, and for the sad depths behind the shallow glitz and laughter.
Carol: Rachel Dawson.
Adele: Natasha Moore.
Nicky: Laura Pitt-Pulford.
Mel: Lucy Thackeray.
Director: Matt Devitt.
Designer: Claire Lyth.
Lighting: Andy Smart.
Choreographer: Donna Berlin.