Rock Bottom @ The Whitstable Playhouse: Review
June 2, 2012
By: Christopher Wallis
Ever watched the Full Monty? Ever thought what would happen if you knew someone that put together a strip act because they’d been laid off? Well, inspired by the iconic 1997 film, Artyzan Productions returned to the Whitstable Playhouse with their newest production, Rock Bottom.
Ok so you’re already thinking strip-show, but Rock Bottom has re-set the film in the present day, made clear by the seven minutes worth of pointless contextual introduction. So for simplicity’s sake I will lay it out for you. The Recession has hit hard.
We see the male characters thrust together four years later through chance meetings. The two male leads were Richard Simpson and Ed Pithie who formed a friendship on stage that was truly an inspiration through father’s rights, obesity and marriage troubles. The incredible thing about them was that they were adapted from the film. This is particularly true with Ben Haigh’s character, which was made to consist of so many other themes, such as being homosexual, which he carried out fantastically.
The dancing is obviously a big part of the show even to the extent of Jamie Woods doing the sprinkler and the funky chicken, whilst maintaining a greying hair colour and a northern accent. Now being a ballroom dancer myself, I was delighted to see the rumba and the cha-cha on stage, executed brilliantly by Gavin Lloyd. And then there was the shear gumption of Ashley Hardman, to give both the rest of the cast and the production team a definite eye-full when he pulled his trousers down in the audition for his ‘part’ in the troupe.
One of the best things about this play was not only the relationships that developed between the men themselves – even culminating in two of the men becoming a couple – it was the relationships between the family units, father and son, husband and wife that definitely brought both a comedic and realistic aspect to the characters, as well as the environment that surrounds the play, shown by the brilliant performances by Ben Williams and Lucie Nash playing Will and Lesley respectively.
The one thing that I felt let this play down was the band ‘Northern Soul’, which was placed above the stage in full-view and had majority of the stage time and ‘noise’. The reliance on the band made the acting itself seem choppy and broken. I got the ‘film snapshot’ feel, but felt it might have been better in some scenes if the lighting was used more effectively to show the differing situations of the men. If we come down to the set on the stage however, the space was used effectively with a sofa, a table and a door being the main props in use. The backstage team were efficient and speedy, placing every prop in its correct place, apart from one blunder with the cling-film! I’m not going to say anymore for fear of spoiling it!
Now it would be stupid to compare this fantastic piece of theatre to a somewhat dated film. Plus the guys here are definitely better looking. For a student ticket I paid £7 and it was definitely worth the money. The view from the stalls was great and as there isn’t a price at the playhouse between the balcony and the stalls I would recommend sitting downstairs. I would hope that Artyzan Productions would be looking to take this on tour. The show restored my faith in stage drama.
But I know what you’re all thinking. I won’t tell you if they leave their hats on. That’s all part of the fun.