Sharp, witty and hilarious, Nottingham New Theatre provides an impeccable production of Willy Russell’s Stags and Hens. Directed by Eleanor Porter and produced by Gabby Carboneri, from the outset the performance is incredibly enjoyable, providing laugh a minute comedy. Despite a dialogue heavy in one-liners, the cast excels in delivering the humour with pangs of reality when necessary.
Set in a rundown dance hall in 1970’s Liverpool, Dave (Jack Revell) and Linda’s (Aimee Gaudin) last night of freedom unravels in the toilets, where the stags and hens brag, gossip and joke about all manner of subjects – from casual sex to the monotony of everyday life. Whilst some of the slang may have changed, it is with these exchanges that you begin to understand why Russell’s play has become such a timeless comedy.
It is with this in mind that we see the underlying poignancy that bubbles under the surface, masked by humour, yet still evident. The characters are working class and we gain an insight into their lives and habits; a suspicion of the unknown and a feeling of exclusion emerging throughout. Eddy’s contempt for Peter, who has found a degree of fame with his band, brings this to the forefront.
Now based in London, Peter returns to the dance hall dressed ‘oddly’, with a broadened horizon on life, clearly pleased that he has managed to escape his working class origins. Weaker casting may have lost this sense of conflict. However, Jamie Prentis as Eddy and Jacek Zmarzas as Peter do well to portray the seriousness, doing Russell’s work justice. Considering the frequency of the humour, their performances in conveying such a key underlying issue are certainly worthy of commendation.
Without doubt though, it is the comedy value that makes the performance so entertaining. The entire cast delivers; exchanges for the most part timed to perfection and they simulate spontaneous banter effortlessly. From his opening scene, Tom Dineen (Robbie) is hilarious and delivers a truly engaging and humorous performance. Hugh Purves (Kav) is also exceptional and really develops into the role as the play gains pace.
Though it was the girls that constantly deliver the biggest laughs, Amy Brough-Aikin (Maureen) especially is incredibly funny for the duration. Indeed, the discussion over wedding gifts was a particular highlight, perfectly performed by those involved. Beginning to wane slightly in the middle section, the realisation that both groups were at the same venue dragging somewhat, the performance did however soon pick up pace again.
Nevertheless, the cast were brilliant, a few stand out performances perhaps, but the cast as a whole were exceptional – there is no better example of this than the finale, which is hilarious, random, but above all, a perfect ending to a classic comedy. Nottingham New Theatre has provided a real gem here with many laughs to be had; it is impossible not to be entertained!
Stags and Hens runs at The Nottingham New Theatre until Saturday 9th March. For tickets email [email protected]