NOT SUITABLE FOR UNDER 14s
In a not-so-chic London bar called Shakers, we meet Carol, Adele, Nicky and Mel, four friends who have taken to waitressing in desperation but who also have wit and resilience enough to never let any of the colorful characters they come across escape their satire unscathed. In theatrically heightened moments, the women play the roles of men and women alike, covering not only their nights at Shakers but also the lives of four other working women in London.
Always at the source of their satire are the men who take them for granted or, worse, abuse them. Against this backdrop of postmodern London life are kaleidoscopic scenes of hilarity and depravity.
In intertwining plot threads we follow the waitresses as they confront a possible new owner for the bar and at the same time we follow four shopgirls getting ready for a night on the town.
Tart-tongued and irreverent, the lives of all of these women are put in painful perspective by the doubling of their roles which draws attention to the economic and social prejudices affecting all women, not just the fighters we meet at Shakers.
Four struggling waitresses try to have a go of it against their customers, bosses and dates alike, using humor, role playing and all out rage to ward off the hopelessness that was Thatcher’s London.
Written by John Godber (Based on Shakers written by John Godber & Jane Thornton)
Lighting and Sound
Dave & Kate Maltby
Glenys Shaw, Marina Coleman-Rivers
Photography & Artwork
I was greeted with a very warm welcome to the upstairs studio space of The Priory Centre. With a more intimate feel, this was the perfect setting for Shakers with its cast of just four players. The stage is simply set with four bar stools and a neon-lit bar. As the audience arrive, there is a distinct cocktail bar feel, with club music and flashing disco lights, to set the mood. Once again, technicians Dave and Kate Maltby have created the perfect atmosphere front of house, leaving Martha Carr in charge backstage to keep things running smoothly there. As a young, first-time stage manger Martha handled the role perfectly – well done!
Directed on this occasion by Bella Coleman, John Godber’s piece is one I know well, however, this was the first time I had come across it as ‘Re-Stirred’. Godber wrote the piece in 1987, in the trendy new wine and cocktail bars that were springing up everywhere at that time. That said, I would have liked a more 1980’s feel on stage – big hair, shoulder pads, blue eyeshadow, anything to let me know what time we are in. As it was, I felt the girls looked very neutral with their leather mini skirts and black shirts (I did like the pink bow ties though) – black opaque tights certainly weren’t around in the ‘80’s! Perhaps this is the ‘Re-Stirred’ element and we are now set in the present day? The background music in the bar certainly isn’t ‘80’s but we still have talk of yuppies, huge mobile phones and Andy King (an ‘80’s footballer) so it is all a little confusing.
Our four cocktail waitresses take to the stage and introduce themselves. Each one tells her individual story as the play unfolds, and we learn that they all have their different reasons for needing this waitressing job. Godber wrote the piece with these four actors multi-roling, so that they also play the wine bar’s varied clientele. Switching from cocktail waitress to till girl, and yuppie business man to party girl is no mean feat, the hardest part is being able to immediately show the audience who you are playing now, to avoid any initial confusion. This was, for the most part, handled well – although on some occasions accents did slip, or body language was not clear. This was particularly noticeable when switching to become a male role. Had the girls been dressed in trousers, it would have been much easier for them to take on the role of a man, sit legs akimbo on the bar stools and be able to use their body language much more convincingly. The short skirts were also a poor choice with the height of the bar stools on the stage when the girls sat down – and also because the bar manager wants to put the girls in shorts, which they are against! They are already in short leather skirts, so what’s the difference? Why are they so worried about shorts when they are already in short skirts? Trousers would therefore have worked better here for so many reasons – perhaps with a short apron.
The four cast members, Emma Ward as Mel, Abbie Miles as Carol, Allie Kidman as Adele and Alisa King-Underwood as Nicky all work the scenes well. With all four actors on stage for the entire play, as well as flipping from one character to another, this is not an easy piece to portray well. These girls did a good job, and we were assured of who they were playing in each particular scene, most of the time. Watch the diction girls, and make sure the accents don’t slip, so that we are truly convinced right from the start of the scene, leaving no room for doubt. Sometimes it took a minute to realise who each of you were now, when characters switched. This was harder to achieve when remaining in a female role, such as the 21st celebrations – at least in the Top Shop changing room we were in a different setting which made things clearer. Perhaps throwing on a jacket, adding a bag, would have added to the comedy element and helped with the multi-roling.
Individually each girl did a great job with her monologue, letting the audience know who she really is inside. Mel’s monologue (Emma Ward) was beautifully played, touching and poignant, and showed another side to Emma’s acting that we had not seen previously -well done. Nicky tells us of her worries about starting a new job on a cruise ship: although mostly well played, take your time Alissa to get the emotion from the piece, let us truly see how scared you are – and then the change of feelings to trying to put on a brave face, and back to work. Adele is worried about bringing up her child on her own and needs this job – again, slow down, allow some pauses for effect and take the audience on that journey with you. Carol is well educated and wants the girls to make something g of themselves, not just settle for whatever comes along. Abbie performed a lovely monologue here letting us in to see the real Carol, not just the waitress. Watch the diction when things speed up and make sure we can still hear every word.
All in all, this was a good production, with some room for improvement and I look forward to seeing you all again soon. Thank you St Neots Players for entertaining us with your production of this classic play.