Minotaur Theatre Company’s comedy double bill Bouncers and Shakers features two plays by John Godber and John Godber and Jane Thornton respectively. The night kicked off with a production of Shakers, a play about four girls working in a cocktail bar, followed by Bouncers (plot, self-explanatory). Considering the title structure, I was surprised to find that Shakers was performed first, but as the evening went on the reason for this became clear: although both brilliant plays, Bouncers is more impressive and accessible. Amazingly written and very relatable to most students, it was a great way to end the evening.
That is not to say that Shakers isn’t a good play. It depicts four women in their early twenties working in a cocktail bar, alongside a group of women preparing for a big night out in the same venue. It features caricatures of the social classes, and explores the connections made in a working-class workplace. I personally loved its honesty, and found it to be the more relatable of the two, partially due to its exploration of how women can be treated in the workplace. I’m not just talking about the customer service, getting-leered-at element, although that is part of it; Shakers was also an honest portrayal of a predominantly female atmosphere. The bitchy arguments, the jokes, the way the characters supported each other, these are all things that come with that kind of environment. Shakers is a play that plays on nostalgia, as anything that is set in the 1980s is bound to be, and I was very happy to give in to that nostalgia.
Bouncers, as I said, was a more impressively written play. It explores similar themes to Shakers, following four bouncers in their struggles with their jobs and personal lives, and the various issues that arise from both. It’s very meta, and uses that to its comedic advantage. It’s also better structured, and uses tools such as monologues and flashbacks to give insight into its characters. However, this creates a kind of separation between the comedy and the more serious elements of the play, which differs from Shakers’ more seamless blend of comedy and seriousness. That being said, the characters in Bouncers are a lot more well-rounded, and are given more resolution than those in Shakers, which perhaps makes them more memorable. The characters’ struggles with the moral dilemmas that arise from their jobs, as well as the disillusionment that this causes towards their culture, are thoroughly explored amongst the comedy, and although a final conclusion is not reached, the play ends with a sense of resolution.
Both plays (as per usual for Minotaur) were superbly acted. The characters came across as believable for the 1980s British working-class, and yet were very relatable for today’s student. The use of caricature, which could have come across as tacky and over-the-top, was funny yet realistic. Both plays were also brilliantly directed; the way the actors played with the audience made both productions come alive.
Overall, two amazing productions that interconnected perfectly, and further elevated the bar for Minotaur.