“A Great Show” – Shakers in the Hall this weekend – read Heroine Magazine’s Liverpool Review: You’d better not miss it!

So who wants a laugh and a giggle and a good night out? If you do….. Come and see “Shakers” on this Friday 26th and Saturday 27th at Cilcain Village Hall! Phone 07515 275 905 to reserve your tickets, only £10 Adult and £8.00 concession for this fab show!! Doors open at 7 for 7.30.

Plus you can bring your own drink in this cabaret style performance!

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Lately I’ve been feeling a bit distant from the theatre, confused by the programming, aware of the low audience numbers and generally a bit bemused in what is being shown. But, The Lantern has been making great decisions this season, and their 2 day run of John Godber’s ‘Shakers’, by Trap Door Productions was no exception.

This was my first time visiting The Lantern, and after wandering blindly around the Baltic, I stumbled up the narrow stairwell and into the theatre bar. It was heaving! Crammed with older couples, teenage girls and groups of women on a night out. The atmosphere felt fantastic and the show hadn’t even begun.

Trap Door productions headed up by Amy Courtenay (Artistic director and Managing Director) and Pamela Courtenay (Director) (Also Mother/Daughter combo! ) is ‘a dynamic group of professional actors and theatre practitioners, which dares to create imaginative and inspirational theatre to push boundaries and challenge conventions’

Amy also played the role of Adele in the production, alongside Amy Spencer as Nicki, Liz Walker as Carol, and Jenny Roberts as Mel. The girls were on fire! Their energy throughout the whole production was so high octane, that I was exhausted watching it. Their grins were wide and cheesy, their expressions over the top and their movements when impersonating were fantastic. 

If you’re not familiar with John Godber or Shakers, here’s a quick breakdown! Godber is arguably one of the most well-known British playwright, and is apparently the third most performed playwright after William Shakespeare and Alan Ayckbourn. He is from West Yorkshire and particularly well-known for observational comedies. ‘Shakers’ sister/brother play ‘Bouncers’ was performed at the Liverpool Royal Court last month.

So ‘Shakers’ as you may or may not have guessed is about a group of cocktail waitresses in the 1980’s who work in a bar called… ‘Shakers’. This quote sums up the play beautifully;

‘Can you remember the 1980’s when every town had its local trendy cocktail bar? Where everyone wanted to be seen from the local check-out girls to the chinless wonders, from the yuppies to the local lads tittering at the thought of a ‘long comfortable screw’. We are given a wickedly funny glimpse of this world by the four long-suffering waitresses who work there. Rushed off their feet, underpaid and overworked, they try to smile and help the difficult customers whilst coping with their own personal problems.’  

I performed in this play when I was 16 years old as part of my Drama GCSE practical piece, so it’s always had a special little place in my heart. When I saw it was being performed at The Lantern, I had to go and see it. And I’m glad I did.

(Aged 16 as Carol. Sometimes I wonder about myself…Who did I think I was!)

Godber may be criticised by some high-brow theatre types, as not good enough, not clever enough, not challenging enough. But I know the packed-out theatre of Saturday night, would tell him to do one!

Godber is light-hearted, but poignant, hilarious but truthful, and Pamela Courtenay did an excellent job of bringing out the humour of the play whilst being able to tone it down during the quiet, more thoughtful moments and monologues.

So for me, I had to wonder (Cue Carrie Bradshaw type moment), why is Shakers still important? Why is Shakers still being performed and programmed and enjoyed by audiences? What gives it it’s lasting power?

Because the issues that the Shaker’s girls are going through in the play, are still crucially important to young women even now, even though it was written and first performed in 1985. One of the things I picked up on was a monologue by the character Carol, performed wonderfully by Liz Walker. Going back to my own copy of ‘Shakers’, I’ve just discovered that I, too, played Carol when I was 16.

‘You know there’s some nights I just can’t stand it. I can’t. I want to stand up on top of the bar and shout: I’ve got O levels, I’ve got A levels and a Bachelor of Arts degree. So don’t you condescend to m, don’t pretend like you feel sorry for me and don’t treat me like I can’t read or talk or join in any of your conversations because I can. I see these teenage-like men and women with their well-cut suits and metal briefcases, discussing the City and the arts and time-shares in Tuscany, and I’m jealous because I can’t work out how they’ve achieved this success.’

Any other 2014 graduates out there feeling like this? Drowning in pizzas, or slaving away at an office, wondering how people can afford to eat out 5 times a week when you can barely make rent?

And the other themes, jokes, gags, and topics that the girls discuss at high speed over the next hour and a half. The pregnancy scares, the woes of working in hospitality, friendships between girls, shit boyfriends, money problems, glass ceilings, sexual harassment and everything in between. They are, whether you believe it or not, all still relevant to a lot of young women in this country today. The way we speak about them may have changed, but they are still there.

Trap Door Theatre Productions have done a fantastic job with this production of ‘Shakers’.

From the great music, think Human League, the Venus Razor Song, WHAM, pure 80’s cheesy gold. To the stage design, glitzy mirror balls, fluorescent-strip lighting and a lit up bar centre-stage. The four girls embodied those waitresses with their whole-hearts. Moving, shaking and shimmying constantly around the stage, and characterising and imitating, a whole host of different schleps and losers who take up residence in the bar.

For me, their strongest parts were the quiet moments, when the screaming stopped for a couple of minutes. Carol talked about her difficulty in her career, how can she move on from working in a cocktail bar when jobs are so scarce, even if she does have a BA in‘Modern Studies’ (!?). Adele with her relationship problems, Nicki facing her ‘first audition’, highlighting the still apparent North/South divide, and delving into the world of Drama schools, and Mel’s pregnancy scares. Together they all face kicking in the glass ceiling, with the omnipresent ‘bosses’ of the bar, threatening to make them wear shorts, and working them to the bone. These girls gave these topics everything they had, they didn’t hold back, and we loved them for it.

Congratulations to Trap Door for a great show and thank you to The Lantern Theatre for having me!

Abi Inglis

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