Shakers Re: Stirred is a contempory play written in the 21st Century by John Godber, born in 1956 in Upton, West Yorkshire. He is known mainly for his observational ‘comedies with an edge’. Godber trained as a Drama Teacher and was an artistic director of Hull Truck Theatre Company. His plays have won numerous awards. Godber, who originally wrote Shakers is an established writer having also wrote Bouncers (1977), Cry Wolf – his first professional production (1981) and Teechers (1987).
Shakers, is set in the 1980’s originally and has been adapted to a modern day performance.
The first ‘Shakers’, written in 1985, was co-written with Jane Thornton and was later re-written again as ‘Shakers Re: Stirred’ in 1991 and once more as ‘Shakers the Musical’ in 1996. Shakers is about the lives of four cocktail waitresses working at the Shakers bar, and has been described as ‘moderately stylish but not too posh. ‘ The characters are “Carol, Adele, Nicky and Mel. And they work in this bar that’s worse than hell! ” The girls act out the multiple people that enter their bar and show us what goes on in a typical night, from drunken lads to love-sick lasses.
Shakers is a play that is set out to show the audience what can happen to them on a typical night out with the men and women of their town. It combines the lives of waitress, supermarket girls, drunken lads and lasses. Godber creates a performance that engages the audience with the characters in their conflicts of human life and the agonising truth of reality. Godber’s characters are played realistically with situations that could happen to anyone and the way in which they deal with them.
‘Shakers Re: Stirred’ draws the audience into their world whether they want to be or not and can keep them held with the physical force of the powerful language used alone. Shakers Re: Stirred has also been quoted to be ‘… very British, very depressing but simultaneously very funny… ‘ This play sets out with an objective, and through all the laughs and tears it has rose to the top and succeeded. Carol is the college graduate who can’t get her life together, Adele, a quiet single mum to a daughter, whose life-long ambition is to work in a travel agent.
Nicky, a would-be dancer/actress and Mel, a character of great intensity towards the customers and her workmates. Shakers’ characters are very different and are much more sympathetic compared to the male equivalent play of Bouncers. Shakers is set in the 1980’s originally and has been adapted to a modern day performance by updating the references made within the play, such as referring to ‘Trinny and Suzanna’ about “fashion victims”. Shakers also uses stereotypical music and settings expected from this genre (comedy), with ‘Girl from Ipanema’ underscoring a supermarket scene.
And as the majority of the play is set within a cocktail bar, the set is very representational, the bar and which side of it they stand can tell the audience which characters they were playing, and the edges of the stage were used during none related scene’s. E. g. the supermarket scene, the apron of the stage was used while the rest of the stage was in blackout. The genre of the play was a comedy, so the general expectations that the audience wanted to see were jokes, puns, and play on words. Generally light comedy, not to heavy to take in and very over the top actions.
Shakers was performed in a studio theatre at the ‘People’s Theatre’, with the audience almost on top of the actors. This tactic helped the audience become more involved with the play and make them want to stay for the whole performance. I have also seen ‘Aladdin et le Lampe Enchante’ at the People’s Theatre. The advertising for this play was quite minimal. Posters were placed outside of the Theatre and information was placed one their website, but because the play was originally wrote by a famous playwright it was also publicised by word of mouth. The set was simple and had very few props.
I think the stage was minimalist so as not to overpower the actors and distract the audience from the text of the play towards the set design, although impressive. The bar was very significant to the play, as it was where the characters headed when they entered onto the stage, and was the central focus point for the majority of the play where most of the performance happened. The effect of placing the play into the same set throughout was highly effective as the audience could take in the set when they first enter, before the play starts, and concentrate on the storyline from then on.
The use of mime used by the characters is very effective, the spilling a pint scene: in slow motion, it allows the audiences imagination to flow rather than a prop doing it for them. More imagination is used if they have to make the scene themselves. Also using mime saves the stage from becoming chaotic with props and clouding the performance. There were certain props that were used that were essential, like chairs, as it would have been hard to mime sitting down for a long length of time. The chairs were different shapes, sizes and colours. Some were brown and chipped paint, others were black and shiny coated – new.
I think that these chairs add character to the play as well as to the actual characters. The chairs being distinctive from one another, I think represents the diverse personalities of the characters and the lives portrayed in Shakers. Because of the obvious character clash, the chairs also reflect this conflict in their appearance. The waitress tray that each character has, although the same shape, colour and size, each has it’s own representation aswell saying that they may be different people but at the end of the day, they are all working to the same job and commitment.
Along with the tray the characters each have a notebook, in which to take orders. A towel is used to clean the “tables” in the play, but it could have multiple representations as to how they use it. They could wring the towel to show anger to the person they are conversing with or they could fiddle with the towel to physically show that they are thinking about something that’s bothering them. Certain areas of the stage were used to portray different characters that the actors played. The main part of the play was played in the centre of the area.
But as the play progressed the wings were used, stage right to show a bathroom and stage left to show a street corner and the apron of the stage for the supermarket. Each scene was performed with varying degrees of charisma, from boredom to drunkenness, with high effectiveness. The lighting used was extremely successful as it captured the moments. E. g. monologues were always executed in spotlights and nearly always centre stage, highlighting the issue to the audience and capturing their attention.
Where as, a normal conversation scene was lighted in a general wash to get maximum impact from the expressions, gestures and movements from the characters. The characterisation of each actor was well balanced with each other and the multiple role-play used was distinguishable from their body language to their accent in some cases. Voice was a problem for the actors as they didn’t have microphones so lines had to be shouted louder than usually, but was dealt with well and the clarity of lines were good.
Some of the lines used by certain characters, Mel particularly, was too much and it sounded more like she was shouting rather than talking loud, it was too much. Their voices were, although understandable, quite common at times. The multiple role-play was where it happened. When their played other characters, their accent changed accordingly, but some of the actors’ accents stuck the same and didn’t give the audience the proper feel of change, while their behaviour, gestures and posture, did.
The stage was quite spacious and was obviously a huge part in the play, therefore the characters had to use the space ton their advantage, constantly moving around and delivering lines from various places. The effectiveness of this technique was to ensure that the audience were captivated as to where they were going to move to next, or what was going to happen next, if they hadn’t already seen the play before hand. Each actor and their characters that they played used all parts of the stage.
The small, raised part of the stage was used to deliver small scenes, like when the alcohol gets spilt on a character that had entered the bar, while the centre of the stage was used for the mass of the play, from the first entrance to the last exit. Facial expressions were a major factor for Shakers to be a success and to gain high popularity. Each expression had to be delivered correctly and with correct timing so to have best co-ordination with the script and with the audience. The actors’ characters were very complex and because of multiple role-play it was made harder to do, but I think the final result was creditable.
Facial expressions were what made the comical moments comical, the silent moments tense and the sad moments emotional, and each of them was revealed to the best possibilities of the actors’ abilities with great effect. When I watched Shakers at the People’s Theatre I was surprised that the play was naturalistic in terms of presentation to the audience, e. g. the supermarket scene, “god, it’s dragging! ” This was comical to the audience, and highly effective, as they dragged the script out and slowed it right down, so it was agreeable by both parties.
The naturalistic approach is seldom used as it proves hard to act out what would usually happen and it’s a lot easier to be overdramatic. The actor’s were rarely, for me, distinguishable as actors rather than their characters as they played the parts well. But when lines were ‘fluffed’ I was reminded that it was a play that I was watching. Also during some monologue’s I was reminded because they were too long and not a lot happened during them. It was all talking and no action, which would have made a better impact on the audience and pulled them in further to their views.
There was one very strong performance, played by the character of Nicky. I think this was because she had a comical role, the character that lightens the mood up if things get down e. g. during an argument between Adele and Mel, Mel says, “You wouldn’t know shit from butter. ” And in response, Nicky says, “I wouldn’t eat her sandwiches Adele! ” That was her role as Nicky, but even as Elaine, she amused the audience by over reacting to the smallest things. Like “Andy King” who she hadn’t even spoke to, but she “LOVED ‘IM!! ” this was very effective because it was so over-the-top and actually quite life like.
The props used that Shakers use are symbolic, the trays automatically represent a waitress to the audience. The costumes worn were plain, all black, but different styles. I think this coincides with the chair situation of being different, having different personalities and wanting different things in their lives. The aprons worn are all the same but this is to show that they all work in the same place but the tops however are assorted. Reflecting their personalities through dress wear is a good way to show inner feelings and the sub-consciousness of characters, e. g.
Mel was wearing a backless top, this could mean that she is confident with the front she putting on to show that she is confident and strong, but really she’s covering half of her story up – behind her. The audience is then told a monologue by Mel, which proves this to correct, that she had an abortion. Nicky, however is wearing a low cut top. This could represent that although she wants to be out there she’s still hiding something aswell, not ready to reveal all. This is shown in her monologue too, with her audition to dance on a cruise and having to go “topless” But being fearful about it.
The low cut top could be a way to being given a little push in the right direction – or maybe it’s a confident boost. The use of music was extremely effective to the play as it helped set the mood of the piece, e. g. Robbie Williams was played into the Topshop scene, which is quite lively and happy, but at the end of Mel’s monologue a quite mournful song was used because of her having an abortion. I thought this was amazingly effective coupled with the acting as well. All different styles of music were used throughout Shakers from chart music from today to music that is slightly older.
Cite this essay
Theatre Review. (2020, Jun 02). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/theatre-review-2037-new-essay