Shakers – Review – East Riding Theatre
By Rachael Popow, April 2017
“You were working as a waitress in a cocktail bar, when I met you…” It was inevitable that the Human League’s ‘Don’t You Want Me’ would have a cameo in John Godber and Jane Thornton’s Shakers. The play follows four female employees at a trendy cocktail bar over the course of what they keep insisting is an unusually quiet Friday night. In fact, it proves fairly eventful for both them and their rowdy clientele.
The play was written in 1985 and although the new production at Beverley’s East Riding Theatre has been re-worked for the occasion, it wisely keeps the 1980’s setting. This allows for the use of plenty of the decade’s hits and means that Godber (who also directs) hasn’t had to turn the Beaujolais Nouveau-quaffing yuppies into artisan gin-sipping hipsters.
As with Godber’s Bouncers – to which Shakers is a sister piece – a cast of four portrays both the jaded waitresses and the customers, who range from braying posh stereotypes to a group of supermarket workers out for a drunken 21st-birthday celebration.
“Reminds us that maybe we haven’t come as far from the 1980s as we like to think”
Amy Thompson, Annie Kirkman, Kate Huntsman and Laura Aramayo are impressive in the multiple roles – it’s often clear from body language alone when they’ve switched characters – and while they are very funny as the lairy punters, they give their most nuanced performances as the waitresses.
Each of them gets to deliver a monologue offering an insight into their characters. This includes Carol, the aspiring photographer who is particularly sensitive to condescension by the customers. And there’s Mel, who doesn’t think the job is that bad and bristles at what she sees as her colleagues’ sneering.
A subplot about whether the bar staff will put on a united front and oppose their manager’s sleazy new scheme to boost the takings could feel like it is shoehorned in to give a more political slant to the closing scenes. But Carol’s questions about what a female prime minister actually means for ordinary working women makes it feel topical again.
So, while Shakers is primarily a very enjoyable night out, it also reminds us that maybe we haven’t come as far from the 1980s as we like to think. Although the scenes of the supermarket employees preparing for their party will leave some female audience members feeling grateful that at least communal changing rooms in clothes shops seem to have been consigned to history…