first night

Stags and Hens

Tamara Gates laughs like a Scouser at HCTC's latest production.

Director Charlie Cussons stated that he wanted to direct a play that is ‘funny, witty and entertaining’, and ‘Stags and Hens’ was just that. I must admit I had reservations about a play set entirely in the toilets of a grimy nightclub in Liverpool, but the play really delivered. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a play that makes me laugh out loud throughout. This is largely due to the cast’s accurate portrayal of their individual characters with whom everybody can relate.  Despite the characters being hugely stereotypical, this added to the comic value and gave the audience individuals someone to identify with.

Sir Knott’s hall at Trevelyan college is not an ideal location for a play, but good use was made of the space and the simple set was incredibly effective, accurately depicting the mens’ toilets on the left, and the girls’ on the right with the typical toilet scrawling on the peeling, stained walls.

The show opened with a worryingly convincing drunken entrance from the hens; ‘we’re having a good time, aren’t we?’ was the continual whiny and desperate line from tearful Maureen, possibly the female character that elicited the most laughs from the audience. Maureen was played accurately by Sarah Watson with very good comic timing and believable tears and moans. The girls were funny from the beginning and even though a few jokes were lost amongst their own laughter, this added to the sense of realism. The rather promiscuous Bernie was played by Sarah Peters well and with great comic effect. I found there was a little too much shouting from her lines, but she never failed to make me laugh. The flirtatious blonde, Carol, played with her hair a little too much, but she was very funny and had a fantastic accent. Although there was disparity between accents I thought that overall they sounded convincing; they must have been challenging to perfect in the short rehearsal period.

The much awaited entrance of the Stags did not disappoint.  The groom Dave, played by Archie Dallas, was hauled into the toilets, arms draped around his friends. Spending the duration of the play passed out, Stags and Hens wasn’t exactly Dallas’ time to shine as an actor, but he managed to get the largest cheer from the audience at the end! James English shone in his portrayal of Scouser  “lad” Kav; his mannerisms and accent were consistent, precise and very entertaining, portraying a very believable and likable character. His belief that his renditions of his name on the wall were artful and impressive was very endearing. The arrogance and vanity of the character Robbie contrasted well with Sam Watkinson’s character Billy, a lovably dopey addition to the group. He never failed to deliver comically, particularly with his questionable diagram depicting the female anatomy. The interaction between the boys was impressive and it retained energy for the most part, although one or two monologues were a little too long to be completely gripping.

It was interesting to watch the Hens continue to act when the lights came up on the Stags, as most of the cast were on stage throughout.  Improvisation was limited given the set of a small public toilet, but it did not falter. One minor issue was the audible whispering and giggling of the girls backstage when only the Stags were acting which caused a distraction for members of the audience but given the theatre space itself this was forgivable.

 The Stags and Hens finally collide in a scene which seemed to lack the aggression it needed as Eddy threatens Linda. However, much comedy followed when the groups paired off and kissed for the entire duration of Linda’s procrastinations. Her decision to leave Dave for the band member seemed predictable and left me feeling a great deal of sympathy for Dave, passed out near the front of the stage completely unaware of his fiance’s decision.

Overall Stags and Hens was a thoroughly enjoyable and energetic production which was consistently funny and entertaining. This is a production that Cussons and Nelson should be proud of, along with the rest of the talented cast and crew.



8 December 2009

The views expressed in the reviews and comments on this page are those of the reviewer, and are not representative of the views of DST or Durham University.
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