BATS Theatre
March 13-29 | Reviewed by Kate Blackhurst

THE PRESENCE of bouncers gives a club a certain atmosphere. They can be confrontational, welcoming, warning or sophisticated. To be admitted by the bouncers you have to be on the list. They lend a sense of propriety to an establishment.

They also take me back to clubbing in England in the 80s, which is where and when John Godber’s play is firmly set. Director, Richard Finn, has moved it to a Wellington setting but it somehow doesn’t quite ring true.

Sure, Courtenay Place has its share of drunken escapades and relationship dramas, but the situations and dialogue seem particularly English. The four lads (Charles Masina, Robert Bullen, Zack Wi-neera, Shaun Martin) play bouncers who discuss everything from ex-wives to rugby, mocking each other gently with deprecating humour, which runs the risk of coming across in staunch Kiwi vernacular as blunt and cruel.

The cast play a variety of roles (the programme notes alert us to the fact that there are twenty-four characters), snapping in out and out of them quickly and convincingly, so there is no character confusion as can sometimes be the case with multiple roles. There are a few projection issues and problems with clarity, which could be addressed with some alteration to the sound levels.

The only props are four chairs and there is no concession to costume changes apart from the putting on and removing of jackets. When added to the generally judicious choice of music, this helps the piece move along at a fair pace.

The cast play their male roles well. However, when they play the women they are all silly and, by hamming up the comedy, they miss much of the depth and seriousness of the lines.

There could be a particularly moving scene when Lucky Eric (Charles Masina) describes an horrific act which he witnessed and which causes him to consider packing in his job as a bouncer. But the delivery is rushed as though the director and the actors wanted to hurry back to the safer ground of parody.

Bouncers is diverting and entertaining for an evening, but it doesn’t provide any insights into what makes us behave this way, or why we need these leather jacketed guardians anyway.