Willy Russell wrote Stags & Hens in 1978
Stags and Hens @ Royal Court
By site contributor Spencer Leigh
Willy Russell's thrity year old play is reversioned and brought up to date at the Royal Court.
In Stags And Hens, Dave (Kris Mochrie) holds his stag night in the same Liverpool club as his bride-to-be Linda (LIPA graduate Rachel Rae). The others realise that it would be tempting fate if they met and much of the play is about keeping them apart. Stags And Hens is set in the club loos where most of the time, the boys are talking about the girls, and vice versa.
Willy Russell wrote Stags And Hens 30 years ago and this new version is described as a “remix” as Russell has quickened the pace, added new lines and a lot more swearing, but kept the storyline and the period intact. The play has to be set in 1977 rather than now because these days, stag and hen parties tend to be on weekends abroad. Also, the play depicts Liverpool as a dying city, which is not the case today. The jokes are very good indeed: when one character says that he is not getting married but is going to remain home with his mother, he is told, “Don’t you think that woman has suffered enough?” When Bernie’s husband requests a quickie, she asks, “How will I know the difference?”
Stags And Hens is very funny but it lacks the depth and compassion of Shirley Valentine and Blood Brothers. This is partly because the characters are all half-drunk (or fully drunk) throughout and it is hard to sympathise with them. The boys’ ringleader, Eddie (James Spofforth), is so dislikeable that in reality, nobody would want to have anything to do with him and certainly wouldn’t invite him on an evening out. He meets his match with the equally tough and domineering, Bernie, very amusingly played by Gillian Hardie.
They all envy Peter (Stephen Fletcher), who has left the city, moved to London and become a chart name, but when he goes through his itinerary you realise that he might be better off at home. He is Linda’s former boyfriend and he represents her potential escape from the city.
The play is directed with speed and panache by Bob Eaton and Eithne Browne. The characters are caricatures like the slightly dopey Billy (Lenny Wood) for the boys and Mo (Keddy Sutton) for the girls, who must inevitably get together. Carol (Brookside’s Suzanne Collins) is very good as the town vamp and she is matched by the stud, Robbie (Kevin Harvey). Danny O’Brien is very funny as Kav, whose views depend on who is talking, while Frances (Laura Dos Santos), though well played, does not have enough to do in this ensemble piece.
In brilliantly funny programme note, Willy Russell describes how he is often mistaken for Alan Bleasdale, and vice versa. He points out similarities in their personalities and their work, but oddly omits something which must have occurred to him. Both Stags And Hens and Bleasdale’s No Surrender are about what happens when two parties arrive at the same club, and both plays end in chaos.
last updated: 06/02/2008 at 13:07