Rock Bottom sprang into action with a different start to a normal show. But then, what is normal? Inspired by the Full Monty, this production is about six bankers made redundant from Northern Rock at the start of the economic crises who are now struggling through life. Complete with a soul band on stage, Artyzan Productions’ performance re-sparks the entertaining embers of the film, injecting new themes of homosexuality and bringing out the female characters at an Ann Summers party.
We are greeted with a retro set designed by Max Bittleston, complete with vintage records artfully positioned on its flats, which set the tone for a soul-infused production. The talented cast did not fail to disappoint, with some faultless performances. Rob’s (Ed Pithie) desperate need for cash leads his crusade to put together a stripping act with some awkward (but strangely sexy) dance moves to ‘Hot Chocolate’. But will he be successful with his mission? Behind the laughs we see a genuine relationship begin between father and son Will (Ben Williams), who haven’t had the best of starts.
The chemistry between the six main characters held the stage throughout. The combination of Gavin Lloyd’s embarrassingly talented Tom with Ashley Hardman’s slightly stupid-yet-cute Hugo and Richard Simpson’s insecure Mark come together to cause a lot of laughter. In places Ben Haigh’s Steve felt a bit lost among the strong personalities on stage, and Simpson’s Mark was slightly stereotypical at times as the character who is overweight and unsure of himself.
Colegate subtly provides layers to the comedy with snapshots into relationships that the six men have. Hugo and Steve’s partnership is touching, whilst the troubled Lesley (Lucie Nash) and Mark (Simpson) are struggling. Finally, Barnett’s impassioned performance as Gavin Lloyd’s wife also deserves a mention, as her straight-laced character showed a different angle to the production.
The supporting cast in their numerous roles can’t be overlooked as they brought ladles of energy to the stage. Two unbeatable performances include Elle Louise Payne’s crazy bra-wearing Ann Summers hostess and Eliott Farr’s desperate Karl who turns up to the auditions scrounging for sexual favours.
A painted brick bridge and steps housed the band at the back of the stage, whilst giving room for other scenes to take place. Bittleston’s attention to detail was obvious from an array of tacky garden gnomes in one scene to a stack of DVDs in another; though this did lead to many set changes it was worth the effort.
The classy band is directed by Jared Evans. It includes trumpet players and a drummer, and is led by three soul singers (Emma Cahill, Ruby Mutlow and Evans). Colegate cleverly used them in the first act, with an iPod scene being a highlight. The slick sequence contained songs that were selected by Rob and Mark on the gadget. It was sliced into action by the band, with blasts of Madonna’s Like a Prayer and Beyonce’s Crazy in Love being brought to life. The songs were accompanied by Woods’s Paul and Haigh’s Will busting some enthusiastic moves, which caused much laughter.
But its presence lingered on in the second, drifting into a slight formula of a scene followed by a song. That said, without the band’s supportive songs the performance would have missed a beat and lacked strength. The two elements flowed well together, complementing both the characters and scenes; the band could easily have a performance themselves.
Rock Bottom does what it says on the tin, with much hilarity and skill by Artyzan. It is a production that is to be seen to be believed, so make your way to Whitstable Playhouse for a night of soul music, sexy dad dancing and a lot of laughs. Will they leave their hats on? You’ll have to find out for yourself.
Rock Bottom is on at the Whitstable Playhouse, from 23 – 26 May. Tickets are available here: