Ella Gold

What's the worst thing about the Corpus Playroom? It doesn't have a bar. Rather, it didn’t have a bar – until now. This week’s Corpus mainshow is Shakers: Re-stirred, which transforms the Playroom into a functional cocktail bar straight out of the 1980s. The bar opens at 6:30pm pre-show, where audiences will have the opportunity to be served a cocktail by the quartet of actresses, in character (who trained as bartenders for this!) – the options ranging from gin and tonic and piña colada to beer and wine.

At seven, the show begins, and we’re transported to Thatcherite-era Yorkshire, to observe a night at the Shakers bar as told by the four waitresses who work there. With interwoven stories of supermarket shopgirls preparing for a 21st birthday party, laddish guys, couples out on dates, and posh businessmen, the harsh realities of the waitresses' lives are revealed beneath the glitzy, glamourous, and humorous facade.

Ella Gold

This is Georgie Deri’s second time directing in Cambridge, and first time seeing and staging a play that features her own northern accent in a normalized light. "The only time I heard my own accent on stage is through the joke character… it's always the Joker character that’s played by either a Northerner or someone Welsh or something like that, and it's the only time that I've heard a regional accent [in Cambridge theatre],” Deri says. “So, I think actually putting on a play that's just set in the north for the sake of being set in the north is something quite profound for Cambridge… it's just nice to hear other accents on the Cambridge theatre scene."

The show is a four-hander ensemble piece, Harriet Wilton (Carol), Meg Coslett (Adele), Olivia Railton (Nicky), and Lydia Clay-White (Mel) working in tandem as the four central waitress personas, but also multirolling as a group of young partiers preparing for a night out, and an interspersing of stereotypical bar patrons. Each of these are definitively distinct and acutely amusing, the actresses splendidly switching and differentiating between hilarious characterizations with instant ease.

"Despite its thought-provoking nature and large amount of heart, the play remains buoyant"

The show is doubtlessly hilarious, yet it intermixes comedy bluntly with moments of poeticism. “It's quite refreshing to have the contrast between over-the-top comedy and down-to-earth realism,” Deri says. “I think there's something to be said about the lack of balance – it keeps the audience on their toes... You don't really know whether you're coming or going with it, and I guess that's kind of like life."

This eighties period piece is a more feminine-centric reworking of John Godber's original Shakers by his wife, Jane Thornton. Thornton’s inserts uphold the levity, but inject a truthfulness that is displayed through the deeply personal monologues spoken to the audience by the waitress characters, among more lyrical moments of dialogue, presenting poignant investigations of themes of idealism in the face of stagnation, single mothering and stay-at-home motherhood, and abortion.

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"[Godber and Thornton present a] much more accessible type of poetry for normal people to understand, rather than, like, nuanced writing that is really beautiful but is just so inaccessible,” Deri says. “I think the lyrical element of it makes it more interesting and less brash but also still remains accessible for everyone to enjoy. I think there are very few pieces of theatre that you could show to a working-class audience and then show to an upper-class audience and they'd still enjoy, and I think Shakers caters to everyone, in that respect.”


Mountain View

Admissions preview

As the show melds the playroom with the bar, the audience is invited into the personal lives of the girls, which continually defines the Shakers narrative with accessibility and inclusivity. However, despite its thought-provoking nature and large amount of heart, the play remains buoyant – with four drop-dead funny actresses to boot.

“As a show that's good for after exams, you don't have to think that deeply about it, and the bits that you do have to think deeply about are kind of spelled out for you anyway,” Deri says. “It's thought-provoking – but in an accessible way. You'll definitely have a good time and a bit of a laugh if you come to see it... and you can buy a drink!"