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Theatre Review: Ladies Night/ Royal Court, Liverpool

When there's no more golden balls, it's time to get your kit off

Published on June 3rd 2010.


Theatre Review: Ladies Night/ Royal Court, Liverpool

LIVE theatre is facing a bit of a challenge this month when many of us will be settling down in front of the telly to watch hours of World Cup football. So what’s to do?

Typical is stuttering shy boy Norman (Michael Ledwich) who tries to be sexy using a bicycle pump involving lots of pumping and rubbing

The answer from the Royal Court Theatre is Ladies Night, a show aimed unashamedly at female audiences. The theory is that many women are not actually interested in football and might be looking for something different.

So how about men taking off their clothes?

That’s the theme of this comedy, a tale of ordinary chaps stripping to earn a few bob after finding themselves out of work.

Of course, The Full Monty managed to corner the market in male stripping comedy but there were other similar shows around at the same time.

I recall a pre-Full Monty male stripping comedy at the Chester Gateway and around the same time Ladies Night was making its debut in New Zealand.

It may not have the same profile at The Full Monty, but Ladies Night, in various versions, has been doing the rounds for the last two decades.

Leslie Lawton, the director of this production, caught up with it in Paris where it was a huge success and earned the Moliere Award.

Oddly enough, he used the French script, had it translated, rewrote it and gave it a slight – very slight – Liverpool makeover.

The result is a dollop of entertainment that should keep some ladies happy and even amuse the occasional chap who is dragged along. It may not be Moliere or even World Cup football but it’s a jolly enough evening.

The by-now familiar tale concerns some out-of-work lads who after spotting a newspaper advert for a performance by the Dream Boys (“£25 a ticket”) realise there is some money to be made in stripping.

When the local club owner Frank (a gravelly-voiced Roy Carruthers) agrees to an audition, they start rehearsing. Naturally, they are hopeless.

Typical is stuttering shy boy Norman (Michael Ledwich) who tries to be sexy using a bicycle pump involving lots of pumping and rubbing.

Enter sexy dancer Dawn (Nicola Bolton) who offers to train them. There are the usual hiccups: Barry (Jack Lord) is going through marital problems, Graham (Alan Stocks) gets a “proper” job, there comes a time when they want to quit and so on.

By the end of the play, however, the show does go on and each gets a speciality turn – all performed with comic exaggeration.

The plot is slight, basically one long rehearsal with some arguments thrown in, but it bounces along quite merrily, building to the final show which is really quite a hoot.

Lawton, former artistic director at the Liverpool Playhouse, who returned to the city last year to direct Funny Money at the Court, shows again a sure sense of comedy (he was, after all, one of the people who established London’s Theatre of Comedy).

This time he is joined by another returnee, designer Claire Lyth, who worked on many Liverpool Playhouse and Everyman shows in the late 1970s and 1980s.

Her designs for the comedy strips add hugely to the fun: they include backgrounds for a fireman (with hose), cowboy, Virgin flight attendant and a Zorro (with sword). Beverley Norris-Edmunds provides the quirky chorography.

The script – adapted by Lawton – is by Anthony McCarten and Stephen Sinclair but how much of their work remains intact I do not know.

Let’s just say the “Scouse Stallions”, as the stripping team is titled in this version (“Raw Merseyside Meat”) provide a lot of fun and if you don’t blink at the end, you will get a quick flash of, well, the full monty.

There is an attempt to provide some dramatic meat, notably in Barry’s marital problems and the attempts by Craig (Stuart Wade) to get off with the dancing teacher, but it’s minor stuff really.

The accent here is on comedy with much of it visual. No doubt there are people who take the stripping profession seriously but not here.

Here, arms gets caught in sleeves, shoes won’t come off smoothly and trousers drop inelegantly. Of course there is still something faintly ridiculous about men taking off their clothes and it is satirised in this show to the full.

Daft it may be, but that did not prevent the largely female audience whooping, cheering and screaming “Get ‘em off!” the night I was there.

Ladies Night is part entertainment, part play and wholly devoted to its target audience. It also makes a complete change from World Cup football.

7/10

*Ladies Night is running at the Royal Court Theatre until 27 June.

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