Hull Truck opened the original version of Shakers by Jane Thornton and John Godber in January 1985. It was revised in 1991 and turned into a musical in 1996 but this version combines elements of all three. The setting has reverted to the 1980s – which, if you recall, was the decade of the Yuppies – but the tautened narrative flow devised for the musical version has been retained.
The story concerns four very different women working as cocktail-bar waitresses. In the course of the evening we hear about their past, their lacklustre present and their hopes (or otherwise) for the future. We also meet some of the customers, usually the awkward squad, who they have to serve with a smile – and clean up after. All this is achieved by just four excellent actresses, well directed by Godber, the whole designed very effectively by Pip Leckenby  and lit by Graham Kirk. Pop songs of the period fill in the sound background.
Mel is the no-nonsense girl, hoping for a future with Steve but haunted by her past with Pete. Carol has a degree but has ended up in this dead-end job through failing to activate her dream career as a photographer. Nicky thinks being a dancer on a cruise ship, albeit one required to go “tastefully” topless, might signal her passage to a brighter future. Adele just wants to give her daughter Emma a better life, though this does require some corners to be cut.
We learn their stories both through short monologues and also through their reactions to their customers. Most of these are ghastly – show-off executives, couples on a night out, lads on a spree and so on – though the factory girls’ birthday celebration deserves the time allotted to it.
Pippa Fulton is touching as Nicky and as the girl whose big night out is ruined when she sees that her idol already has a date. Liz Carney’s Adele begins as someone happy to arrive late and leave early, so not particularly admirable – until we discover the reason for this. Claire Eden’s Mel is another character who seems unsympathetic at first meeting, but becomes almost heart-breaking as she balances what happened with Pete against the scale-weight of a future with Steve. You can only hope that Annmarie Hosell’s Carol will succeed in achieving at least one of her goals.