John Godber and Jane Thornton's new version of 'Shakers' updates the 80s-set play to the present day, complete with references to Instagram, Deliveroo and Covid. The play is set in a high street cocktail bar, and focuses on three cocktail waitresses - Nicky (Yasmin Dawes), Adele (Jazmine Franks) and Mel (Rebecca Tebbett) - telling their stories across one night at work.
The three actresses also multi-role, portraying various customers that visit the bar during the night, including three teachers letting their hair down after a week at work, three men from the golf-club and various couples, both in love and not-so-in love. The transitions are all extremely quick - there are no costume changes, a simple change of posture and the actresses manage to transform themselves from one character to the next with ease, in a way that is never confusing for the audience.
The first half of the play almost seems to be made up of different sketches featuring different caricatures, each scene interspersed with music from the current charts, helping to make the play feel bang up to date. Choreographed dance movements allow the actresses to portray the hustle and bustle of the night, whilst always attempting to maintain a fake smile - although the smile slips on multiple occasions as they find themselves harassed by customers and ordered around by bosses. The transitions grow more creative as the play continues - a particular highlight was the slow-motion clean up after one of the customers vomited sea food pasta all over the floor.
The second half of the play delves more into the character's lives, as each is given a moment in the spotlight to monologue. The play feels like it slows down in this act, but that is by no means a bad thing. Nicky reminisces about her last visit to her gran, Mel talks about an abortion she had in her teens, and Adele discusses the sexualisation of women in the workplace, and why she is forced to put up with it in order to put food on the table for her daughter.
Overall, this is a good update from Godber and Thornton, although perhaps filled with too many Covid and Eat-Out-To-Help-Out references that already make the show feel a little dated. The most interesting aspect of the play are the bits that remain the same - the sexual harassment, the fear of walking home alone. The play highlights just how much, but also how little, society has changed in the last 40 years. I wonder what the play will look like in 40 years time? Hopefully nothing like it does today.
Shakers: Under New Management is on tour until November. For further dates, see https://www.thejohngodbercompany.co.uk/shakers-under-new-management ETC's version of Shakers: Re-stirred (Godber and Thornton's 2002 rewrite) is playing on 13th November. Get your tickets here: https://www.seaty.co.uk/shakers
Tom Morley, October 2022