BIGGER, BETTER AND BOUNCIER
When: Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday, 8pm. Friday, 5.30pm and 8.30pm.
Where: Hull New Theatre, Kingston, Square, Hull.
Tickets: £18.50 to £22.50. Call 01482 300300.
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Debut: When John Godber debuted Bouncers at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, two people turned up on its first night. One left half way through and the other, a drunk, got up on stage with the cast.
Exotic: The club in the play was originally based on Kiko's, in Pontefract, West Yorkshire's only Polynesian nightspot.
Talent: Godber wrote the play in two days on his sister's Petite typewriter, while his mum did the ironing downstairs.
It's been 35 years since John Godber first unleashed Bouncers on the world. But only now has the playwright managed to create his definitive version, he tells Ian Midgley
T he music may have changed beyond recognition in the past 35 years.
The fashions and handfuls of flesh brazenly on display through barely-there dresses may also have reached indecent levels and the bouncers on the doors now have GNVQs in customer care.
But, when you get down to it, in the lairy, drunken heat of a sweaty club dance floor, very little has changed on a night out.
"The hunt is still the same," says John Godber with a wry smile.
"There are still gaggles of girls and gangs of lads – all eyeing each other up and trying to pull each other.
"Beyond the cosmetic, the music and the clothes, very little has actually changed.
"People still go clubbing and they still essentially want the same thing."
Which is probably why, 35 years on, Bouncers still works.
It may be a lifetime ago since Godber climbed on stage in Edinburgh with fellow actor Peter Geeves (he'd later go on to find fame as the orange Tango man) to debut his play – but its themes and lurking undercurrents of longing and frustration – all wrapped up in Godber's signature zinging banter – are as relevant today as they were back then.
The only really incongruous thing you'll notice when the show arrives in Hull this week is the venue it's playing at.
After so many productions, down so many years, across town at Hull Truck Theatre, this 2012 version of the show will be staged in the more expansive surroundings of the city's more opulent Hull New Theatre.
And the playwright says he's enjoying having a bigger canvas to play with.
This time, backed by the Watershed Productions theatre company, Godber says he's had the time to take a long hard look at the play and create what he believes could be the definitive version.
"We've had three weeks of rehearsal this time, which was unheard of at Truck," says the 56-year-old, who admits he ventured around the pubs and clubs of Hull's Old Town as a "research trip" for the new production.
"Bouncers was pretty much a cash cow for Truck. We could guarantee we'd get bums on seats and make a few quid.
"I think the last performance we did at Spring Street took £55,000 at the box office in a day.
"We'd try to do it as cheaply as possible because we needed the money.
"This time is probably the first time I've been able to do a proper 'big' production, which no one's ever seen before."
Sitting in an outdoor café in York, outside the theatre where the tour has just launched, Godber is looking happy and relaxed.
Shorn of his day-to-day responsibilities of "checking what the soup of the day is" at Truck he seems to be revelling in the freedom of just being a writer and director again.
Given the time and freedom to tinker with his most famous work, he's also attracted a cast of household TV names to the play – a veritable bad boy line-up of some of soapland's worst villains.
As well as Ian "Tricky Dicky" Reddington, who plays ageing doorman Lucky Eric, there's fellow EastEnders alumni Don Gilet, who played killer Lucas Johnson, and Ace Bhatti, better know in Walford as evil doctor Yusef Khan.
In fact, the only cast member who hasn't caused misery and mayhem outside the Queen Vic is Brough-based actor Bill Ilkley who, as a serial Godber collaborator, has been involved in almost as many productions of Bouncers as the playwright himself.
At last count, he had 750 performances of the show under his belt.
"I am really excited about taking the show on the road again," says Godber, before scurrying back stage to give his actors some "first-night notes".
"I suppose Bouncers has become a bit of a classic," he shrugs. "And, as long as people go out and get drunk and dance, it'll always be relevant."