Venue: Royal Court, Liverpool
Date Reviewed: 11th February 2008
Willy Russell’s Stags & Hens was written 30 years ago and to celebrate, the writer has literally remixed it but it still retains the wit and the many other ingredients that make it such a memorable hit play.
Staged in the Royal Court in Liverpool, it immediately feels authentic as this venue is not known for its plays – comedy and gigs being the main events previously. So this unique space means that you can eat here and bring drinks to your table if you are lucky enough to be sat in the stalls.
You are transported back to 1977 and the setting is a Liverpool nightclub- complete with dodgy lights, smoky rooms and drunken revellers. A stag do is in full swing and following a curry – the lads decide to hit the club. The only problem is the girls are in the same dive.
Bride and Groom on wedding’s eve
Should never the other one perceive
For if they do they’ll live to see
A marriage without harmony
Linda (Rachel Rae) starts having doubts as she and her friends dance the night away. Meanwhile, the groom to be Dave (Kris Mochrie) has passed out in the gents’ lav, surrounded by his mates.
With the wedding less than 12 hours away, will the arrival of Linda’s old flame- musician -Peter (Stephen Fletcher) put a cat amongst the pigeons? The fun of this fast paced play is finding out whether our heroine will get to the church on time or whether she will break away from her mates’ dreams and ideas.
The performers bring a funny but edgy quality to this excellent comedy/drama and each one of them deserves praise as this really is an ensemble piece. But Rae is superb as the bride to be with cold feet; you really feel for her as a result. Fletcher and this gifted actress have genuine chemistry making you believe in their plight. Gillian Hardie is a scream as head girl Bernie – the scary leader of the pack. As for the lads, they too are wonderful but Lenny Wood is ideal as awkward Billy, the one least likely to cop off.
Russell’s writing still has a bittersweet flavour after all these years and director, Bob Eaton gives the play the pace and respect that it deserves. Mark Walters’ grimy set featuring his and hers backstage quarters and the back entrance to the club serves as a superb backdrop to this brilliant revival.