REVIEW: Stags and Hens – East Kilbride Arts Centre

It’s Liverpool. It’s the 70s. It’s a Liverpool where Industry has gone to the dogs and opportunity has taken a very long ferry trip far beyond the Mersey.

Dave and Linda are on their respective stag and hen nights, unbeknownst to each other, in the same place, a trashy, down-at-heel disco in the city.

The action in Willy Russell’s Stags and Hens takes place in the toilets of the dodgy disco, where Linda and her pals and Dave (who spends the play with his head down the toilet) and his mates, ruminate on life, the universe and everything in between.

Russell is a master portrayer of the lives of the ordinary man (and woman); the clothes may be desperately dated, the jokes chronic; “love is blind, marriage is an institution…who wants to live in an institution for the blind?”, but the dialogue is natural, believable and entirely relatable and underneath the surface laughs there is a deeper commentary on working class life, misogyny, opportunity and expectation.

Inspire Theatre’s production of this little-seen play is near-faultless. Under the tight direction of Elaine Berry, the action moves along at a cracking pace and the razor-sharp dialogue hits the mark every time, but what elevates the whole production is the cast. Universally on point throughout, the cast of twelve maintain an impeccable focus and the production is replete with pristine tiny detail, from the girls’ primping and preening to the boys’ posturing, this is a masterclass in acting.

Particularly impressive are Hazel May MacGregor as the bolshy and boisterous Bernadette and Michelle Minto as the hysterical Maureen. To his great credit, Francis Lyons manages to keep the role of violent hothead Eddy completely within the bounds of reality – a role which could so easily have been overplayed and Martin Haddow elicits both laughs and sympathetic awws, as the misfit Billy. That said, this is a perfect example of exemplary ensemble acting.

This is a theatre company to watch out for, small but perfectly formed, bigger companies should take heed – quality wins every time.