Haddock & Chips by Janet Plater
Gosforth Civic Theatre
Until Saturday 23 October 2021
Touring the North East of England from Thursday 21 October to Saturday 13 November 2021.
One wonderful aspect about theatre is that it is able to tell our story. Whilst television is increasingly centered around London and Manchester, the experiences of life in the North East only gets presented on stage. Haddock & Chips is a wonderful comedy, centered around a chippy in Whitley Bay, that is touring the North East for the next few weeks.
Phillippa Wilson and Joe Caffrey appear as Brenda and Bob, who spend their day serving various hot food with chips. Despite the fact that the menu on the wall offers salad boxes, most customers want either cod or haddock. Bob has been working at the shop since his youth and now he directly runs the establishment, using his Ford Transit van to pick up the fish daily from North Shields. Brenda has been buying her fish suppers from the shop for years and now she serves the meals with an extra serving of inquisitive chat as you wait 5 minutes for the fish to fry. This could be "where are you from?" or as a caring neighbour, who acts as the region's second social services.
In this two hander play the cast have to, for example, disappear to get a bulb to change a light fitting and reappear as one of the customers or local police - and this works really well. In Phillippa Wilson and Joe Caffrey we have a pair of very experienced actors who know how to deliver an entertaining and engaging play. This play feels local, not just by what Janet Plater's fine script says, but how they say it. You have met each of the characters involved from the fairground operative through to the canny policeman. Despite the potential limitations of a small cast, Jake Murray's direction keeps the show flowing at a steady pace.
As a regular reviewer you get to see lots of shows that are supposed to be comedies but they contain few laughs. Haddock & Chips rises to the top of the comedy crop as it finds comedy in both the things we say and they way we say it. Laughter from different sections of the audience was regular as someone recognized a particular phrase or action. Phillippa Wilson is able to throw "that look" as she speaks that makes you laugh and Joe Caffrey is able to create a physical performance that brings the situation to life. His performance as a drunk attempting to pick up a wooden fork was superb. Here's the thing that was unusual about the performance I saw in Gosforth, people spontaneously applauding after a short comedic physical routine in acknowledgement of the skills of these two great performers.
One nice touch was the sound of the fish going into the fryer. Chris Neville-Smith's sound design had me craving a portion after I left the show.
A theme of the show is that a local girl has come missing and it is all over "the Twitter and the Facebook". Whilst the story is the frequent conversation in the shop, as it would be, it doesn't develop into anything greater than it naturally would. That sense of the natural development of an external issue is also a real strength in the writing. Nothing feels that out of place - and I speak as someone who has had in impromptu dance in a middle of a shift in a shop one evening - it does happen!
Haddock & Chips is a largely upbeat, positive reflection of living an working in the North East. Yes the people here are friendly but they don't suffer fools. People can be positive about their lot but acknowledge it could be a hell of a lot better. Bad stuff happens around us as well as good stuff, but you just get on with it. The result is a play that was a very pleasant couple of hours with a talented team.
Review: Stephen Oliver
Photos: Matt Jamie
Cast & Creatives:
CaroleW Productions presents
Haddock & Chips by Janet Plater
Performed by Phillippa Wilson & Joe Caffrey
Direction by Jake Murray
Design by Louis Price
Movement Direction by Lee Proud
Original Music by Birdie Jackson
Haddock & Chips 2021 Tour Dates:
• Gosforth Civic Theatre - Thursday 21 to Friday 22 October, 7.30pm & Saturday 23 October, 1pm
• Alnwick Playhouse - Tuesday 26 October, 2pm & 7.30pm
• Queen’s Hall Arts Centre, Hexham - Thursday 28 October, 7.30pm
• Gala Durham - Friday 29 October, 7.30pm
• Frosterley Village Hall in Bishop Auckland - Saturday 30 October, 7.30pm*
• Middleton & Todridge Village Hall in Northumberland - Sunday 31 October, 7.30pm*
• The Witham in Barnard Castle - Wednesday 3 November, 7.30pm
• Arts Centre Washington - Thursday 4 November, 7.30pm
• The Maltings in Berwick-upon-Tweed - Friday 5 November, 7.30pm
• Kentmere Institute in Kendal - Saturday 6 November, 7.30pm*
• Wetheral Community Village Hall in Carlisle - Sunday 7 November, 7pm*
• Ushaw Historic House, Chapels and Gardens near Durham - Tuesday 9 November, 7.30pm
• Saltburn Community Theatre - Wednesday 10 November, 7.30pm
• The Exchange in North Shields - Thursday 11 to Saturday 13 November, 7.30pm, Saturday 13 November 2.30pm
* These dates are part of the Highlights Rural Touring Scheme
Age suitability: 12+
Duration: Approx. 2 hours including interval
Haddock & Chips, which will tour the North East of England from Wednesday 20 October to Saturday 13 November 2021, has been made possible using public funding by Arts Council England.
Tickets for the tour range from £12-£14. For more details about tour dates and to book tickets visit www.carolewproductions.com.