Stags and Hens (The Remix)
Talisman Theatre, Kenilworth, until Saturday (June 17)
Reviewer: Peter McGarry
ENERGY bursts upon the stage. The air throbs with the sounds of 1980s disco. The young Scousers have hit town.
First the girls: gaudy and glittery. Then the lads: loud and lusty. The scene is set for a trawl back through an age of noisy, uncouth exuberance. Tasteless? Yes. Offensive? Probably. Fun? Certainly.
The joy of this production is its sheer courage in going for broke with a team consisting mainly of newcomers. But there’s never a hint of inexperience echoing around the ladies’ and gents’ loos of a seedy Liverpool nightclub. This is the joint setting for an unplanned collision between the males and females on the night before a wedding, and it’s effectively brought to life by Paul Chokran’s design.
It’s even more effectively brought to life by Corrina Jacob’s direction which keeps everything moving at a blistering pace and ensures that the players, whether arguing, emoting or breaking into dotty dance movements, are right on key. No fault can be attributed to the company for a couple of moralising moments imposed by writer Willy Russell and rather out of place amid the rampant wit and canny observation of the rest of the piece.
With such a dedicated cast, it seems almost unfair to pick out individuals but from the lads’ camp Jimmy Proctor’s swaggering macho man and Nick Doughlin’s shiny-suited would-be wide boy are first-rate and for the girls there are Katie-Ann Campbell’s histrionic drama queen and Jemma Ireland’s voluptuous vamp spearheading the comedy. All hail the rest, though, because hardly a single character is out of step and the ensuing ensemble work could be the envy of any theatre company.
Russell’s sharp-edged humour remains as potent as ever and although this play has been classed as a remix, it’s hard to see where any changes lie. For the Talisman, though, you only have to consider the literary chasm between this and last month’s Chekhov play to realise just how potent local theatre can be.