Aug 11 2023 | By More

★★★★☆      Impressive

The Royal Scots Club (Venue 241): Mon 7 – Sat 12 Aug 2023
Review by Hugh Simpson

The Edinburgh Graduate Theatre Group revive Shakers to great effect at The Royal Scots Club for the first week of the Fringe only.

John Godber and Jane Thornton’s 1980s comedy is about the cocktail bars that were then a newly-arrived reflection of Britain under Thatcher, the women who work there and the various customers.

While the huge hair and music date the setting, the explorations of working conditions, sexism and the contrast between the fun-seeking customers and the precariousness of those who serve them mean it could have been written yesterday.

The cast of Shakers. Pic Andrew Morris

Although still definitely set in the 1980s, director Hilary Spiers has transferred the setting from the North of England to Edinburgh. This is a tactic which often backfires, but here it works magnificently, with the various geographical references and uses of Scots idioms working seamlessly and to great effect.

There is a pleasing ensemble feel to this. The cast (Nicola Hamilton, Eilidh Smith, Lois Willians and Rhona O’Donnell) have a togetherness and a rapport that speaks highly of Spiers’s direction as well as their individual talents.

There is an effective rhythm to the piece; what is more impressive is the use of light and shade. The secondary characters (all played with gusto by the four performers) are such grotesques that it can come across as breathless and over-exaggerated – here, while there is still broad humour and expansive performing, it is cleverly judged.

The more poignant moments are also played with great delicacy – O’Donnell’s Nicki, a would-be actor, delivering a poignant self-written monologue; Hamilton’s Carol lamenting her degree making her either under- or over-qualified for everything; Smith’s Adele detailing the sexual past that is far more horrific that she seems to realise; Williams’s Mel and her unwise relationship with a married man.

The cast of Shakers. Pic Andrew Morris

The lighting of Gordon Hughes and the sound of Richard Spiers add to the effect, with the sometimes awkward acting space in front of the stage in the Hepburn Suite being cleverly and fully utilised. The transitions between the various scenes are clear without being unduly stressed.

At times there is a certain lack of confidence about how much to play up to the audience and how much to rein it in, but on the whole this is thoroughly accomplished production – well staged, well acted, consistently funny and with a huge heart.

Running time 1 hour (no interval)
The Royal Scots Club (Hepburn Suite), 29-31 Abercromby Place, EH3 6QE (Venue 241)
Monday 7 – Saturday 12 August 2023
Daily at 9.00 pm
Tickets and details Book here.

Edinburgh Graduate Theatre Group links

Company website:

Facebook: @edingrads

Twitter: @TheGrads

Instagram: @edingrads

The cast of Shakers. Pic: Andrew Morris



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