Theatre review - Chip Shop Chips, The Foxton Centre, Preston

Fish and Chips

Fish and Chips - Credit: Archant

It’s the grand re-opening of Booth and Sons fish and chip restaurant where there promises to be fun, laughter, quizzes and drama. We, the audience, are all invited. Quite literally.

Diversity in theatre is always welcome. When a play can break through the boundaries of normality and offer us something original it is refreshing, especially when the direction of a play is to include the audience. With Chip Shop Chips it does just that as the audience and the cast are immersed as one.

Chip Shop Chips isn’t your usual run of the mill stage play. For one, the stage and the auditorium are the same. The auditorium in this instance is the restaurant floor with tables set out ready for the audience to take their seats and enjoy a fish and chip supper while the action is played out all around us. Eric Booth has returned home after forty years to take over the running of the family business following the passing of his father and he wants the evening to go successfully. Whilst the audience enjoy their meals, we are entertained with music and a special ‘fish and chip’ related quiz. Assisting Eric with the re-opening of the family business is loyal assistant Lee, a pot washer dragged to the forefront to help out. The evening’s frivolities are going well until Christine enters with her granddaughter, Jasmine, and the evening begins to go sour.

Becky Prestwich’s wonderfully written play is clever. Very clever. Not only has she written a funny, light-hearted and often warming story, the amalgamation with the audience participation (to a certain extent) allowing us to blend into the story takes a lot of craft to execute and the whole experience was fresh and welcoming. Adam Quayle’s direction is perfect with the harmonisation between the pair faultless. Allowing the interaction between the actors and the audience adds a different edge to traditional plays, but it drew the audience into the story as if we really were at the re-opening of the restaurant. The idea of including a fish supper along with the games and quizzes not only adds a factor of variety, but also allows them to attract a different type of audience, one that may not have usually considered going to the theatre before. It’s a sure fire way to increase popularity and to get people from all walks of life enjoying this wonderful culture. A very smart move indeed.

Becky Prestwich’s story is made up from conversations she overheard while being in chip shops. It’s the stories of those lives around us which we may not notice, or the stories of our own lives, played out in front of us. Essentially a story of love, Prestwich displays it from two different sides. There is the long lost, forgotten love of Eric and Chrissie and the blossoming love, combined with awkwardness and uncertainty of a younger generation with Lee and Jasmine.

Russell Richardson was superb as Eric. Not only as Eric the chip shop owner, but Eric the entertainer as he showed a variation to his acting persona by entertaining the audience with funny stories and jokes, often ad-libbing in certain areas to react to the audience. Ben-Ryan Davies performed a heart-warming role as Lee, the out of luck, college dropout who is proud of his job and who he has become, despite what he has been up against in life. His often ignorant and clumsiness were played out beautifully in a really assured role. Julie Edwards played the role of Christine who attends the restaurant looking to potentially rekindle a romance with an old flame. She performed the role faultlessly with great evidence of experience and ability. Jessica Forrest made her stage debut as Jasmine, who is the subject of Lee’s affection. Jessica made sure that it was a debut not to forget as she was truly wonderful in the role, delivering some of the play’s funniest lines with her sassy character with a heart. On this display there is definitely great things to come for her in the future.

Box of Tricks have struck gold with this play. Taking the bold decision to move from the theatre to the chip shop was brave, but important to interweave the story with the audience and one that has truly paid off with an evening that will be talked about by many for a long time.

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The tour continues at the following venues:

10th March 7.30pm -Whitby Hall (Cheshire Rural Touring Arts)

11th March 7.30pm -Goostrey Village Hall (Cheshire Rural Touring Arts)

12th March 7.30pm -Winsford Library (Cheshire Rural Touring Arts)

13th March 7.30pm -Arnside Educational Institute, Cumbria (Highlights North)

15th March 7pm -The Carlton Club (in association with The Met, Bury) / 0161 761 2216

16th March 7pm -Ramsbottom Civic Hall (in association with The Met, Bury) / 0161 761 2216

17th March 7pm -Fusiliers Museum (in association with The Met, Bury) / 0161 761 2216

18th March 7.30pm -Calder Vale Village Hall (Spot On)

19th March 7.30pm -Hewitt Lecture room, Lytham (Spot On and Lowther Pavilion)

20th March 7pm -St Josephs Village Hall, Hoghton (Spot On)

21st -23rd March 7pm -Harrogate Theatre Studio / 01423 502116