A play by Janet Plater

From CaroleW Productions / Directed by Jake Murray

Starring Phillippa Wilson and Joe Caffrey

I haven’t seen much theatre lately (obvs) but I was so glad I ventured out to Gosforth Civic Theatre for this one. Haddock and Chips says so much that we need to hear right now making it the perfect post-lockdown play. But it’s so much more than that.

Haddock and Chips is about community – and it reminds us that the things we take for granted play a much more important role in our lives than we give them credit for. Take Frankie’s Chippy, where Bob and Brenda work (great character names btw – I’ve a Bob and Brenda in my novel too). Brenda (Phillippa Wilson) is so immersed in the local community that Bob (Joe Caffrey) constantly reminds her that she’s a fish fryer – not a social worker. Interestingly though, Bob’s role also stretches beyond the remit of satisfying hungry customers with cod ’n’ chips or a battered sausage.

And it soon becomes clear that the customers don’t just go to Frankies for scran either…

Communities have their problems – and Frankie’s community is no exception. Through a range of brilliantly acted characters we learn of family fallouts, cheating, gossip, stigma and even a missing child…But we also learn that in communities we can find purpose, friendship, responsibility and support. Just because there’s no formal structure to it, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. You just have to look in the less obvious places to realise where the community’s beating heart is. It might be a pub, a community centre, the post office – or all three. But in this case, it’s Frankie’s Chippy.

The play is as hilarious as it is heart-warming, and the lines, direction and performances are super, Super (if you know, you know). From Joe Caffrey’s drunken young lad, to Phillippa’s stern copper – each and every one you recognise in some way – not necessarily for the role they have in society, but for who they are – their vulnerabilities, quirks, struggles or sheer infamous standing amongst the locals. With just two actors it’s absolute genius how each character interaction – either following a quick costume change or a conversation with an imaginary line of customers – completely draws you in. But then again, we are in the hands of two of the region’s best! The music and brilliant dance routines (thanks to choreographer Lee Proud) will have you cheering and laughing intermittently throughout the play. But I defy your heart not to melt when Phillippa introduces an elderly lady who just wants someone to talk to. While communities are great, they are never perfect, and we’re reminded again that customers might need more from their local chippy than a bag of chips, or more from their local pub than a pint…

Oh, and it also reminds us that, while we yearn to make our biggest and most exciting ambitions a reality (like Bob’s passion for photography), we should try to consider the impact we are having on our own, and others’, lives through the little or seemingly mundane things we do.

It’s not often my other half and I are so equally and thoroughly swept away by the same show. But Haddock and Chips is perfect in every way – from the sound of the fryer to the myriad ways the handling of wooden chippy forks can say so much about a multitude of characters! Go watch it!

To see the show, which is currently at Gosforth Civic Theatre and will tour regionally throughout October and November, visit CaroleW productions for full listings and links to venues.

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