In the land of fair Wetherspoons, four rowdy Knights of the Pub Table share their stories of beautiful (if a bit drunken) maidens and battles between (brawling) brothers. Flying under the stylistic banner of the distinctive Steven Berkoff, their tale is a full on ‘wham bam thank you ma’am’ production, with grotesque physicalisation taking centre stage.
Jobless, Actless, Faithless and Dependable, otherwise known as Nick, Jimmy, Paul and Rich are four disparate youths bound inextricably together through the ties of friendship. Whilst heading out for a night on the tiles, they encounter all of the usual obnoxious suspects whilst embarking on a huge amount of drinking - so a standard night out in London then.
But this is not to say that this is a standard piece. Raucous and bombastic, Lads is an exhilarating ride, not to mention hugely funny. Writer and director James Kermack’s spot on observations are extended into sharply crafted and dramatized moments of chorography. The energy of his direction carries you away on the whirlwind of affectionately mundane excitement that everyone feels at the promise of a night out on the town with your pals.
Our four lads are played with great verve by Geoff Breton, Drummond Bowskill, Josh Boyd Rochford and Danny John Noonan. As they embody the rabble that these boys encounter we see greasy bosses and nasal gaggles of girls float caustically in front of our eyes. As they banter with one another the brotherly bond that ties these four knights together is tangibly there.
Of the four it is Bowskill who steals scenes however, giving a comedy performance that would rival that of all the great buffoons. Infinitely charming, Bowskill seems to sit more within a Commedia dell’arte tradition than the Berkoff that surrounds him.
As with the autocratic Mr Berkoff however, in the midst of all this revelry it all gets a bit much. This company are forcefully leading their audience by the hand instead of inviting us to follow them and at points it feels awkwardly like an issue of Nuts with an agony aunt page tagged on at the end.
But even if Kermack falls down in the more naturalistic sections, Lads is still a textured and confident piece of theatre which shows the emergence of a strong talent. Shakespeare it’s not, but for pure balls-out entertainment, Lads is guaranteed to get you through the January doldrums.
- Honour Bayes