18 FEBRUARY
THE HUB, ORDSALL

Being a Scouser working and living in Manchester, I am prone to frequent bouts of homesickness. I know it’s only 40 minutes down the road, but you know how it is. When I do feel a wave of reminiscence, it’s nice to allow nostalgia to set in and take me back home. Back to a time when I didn’t pay bills, with mum’s roast dinners and a good door slam from my teenage years. But what I miss the most is a chippy tea.

Is there anything more nostalgic than that? To me a chippy tea meant a pick-me-up, the first night in a new house or a Friday night family meal. It’s love, belonging and family. Now a chippy tea has a new memory hanging in the smell of malt vinegar. A night of theatre.

Chip Shop Chips 1

Chip Shop Chips is a new site-specific play produced by the Box of Tricks theatre company. It’s the grand reopening of Booth and Son’s Fish and Chip Shop and Eric returns after a 40-year absence, ready for a fresh start and he needs tonight to go well. The audience are now the punters he so eagerly wants to impress, not so much with his fishy puns, but definitely with the chip shop dinner we are served before the play starts. Hot and straight out of the paper, washed down with a can of dandelion and burdock. Top marks.

Eric, played by Russell Richardson, is a definite showman and, even with the bad puns, he soon wins us over with his passion for his family business. He has given his community’s local chippy a new lease of life, with exotic flavours, an alcohol license and a pub quiz. It was a pleasant surprise to correctly guess the two countries that fought the Cod War. Everything so far is going great for this punter. That is until Eric’s old teenage sweetheart shows up.

Chip Shop Chips 2

Recently widowed Chrissy (Julie Edwards) is thrilled to see Eric back, but the same can’t be read from Eric’s reaction. As Eric continues to ignore Chrissy’s attempts to engage with him, she takes one of the cards provided on our tables, asking the audience for their chip shop memories, and Chrissy writes the fond memory of her and Eric. Edwards is wonderfully diverse and warm in her portrayal of Chrissy. Unfortunately, some of these lovely traits are missed, as her monologue is lapped over by the conferring audience, heads down in a pub quiz. It was a real shame, as not only do we miss an opportunity to really get to know her, but also our host. So far we have met the Eric he has chosen to share with us, not always the true representation of himself.

Written by Becky Prestwich (in an actual chip shop, would you believe?), the play is about home, nostalgia and love. It may be a little cheesy, but be it with a new flame, your family or your mates, we’ve all shared a cone of chips with someone we love. This play is definitely a love story. Aside from Eric and Chrissy, another will-they-won’t-they relationship brews between Chrissy’s granddaughter Jasmine and chip shop worker Lee. Sparking a romance with a longevity that is unlikely, could history be repeating itself? Playing Jasmine, this is a stage debut for Jessica Forrest, who gets easily the most laughs of the night with her quick, sarcastic, at times nasty wit. Ben-Ryan Davies’ portrayal of Lee balances out Jasmine’s coolness with a genuine positivity despite a troubled upbringing and dim future. A very addictive character.

Chip Shop Chips 2

This theme of love is explored in a multitude of ways and raises a lot of questions. One which struck me was: is romance for the young? As Chrissy talks about her painstaking ordeal of losing her husband to cancer, she now remembers a time in her life that she was excited by the thrill of being wanted by a man, to Jasmine’s embarrassment.

Just like love may not be amorousness and romance may not be eroticism, age may not always mean expiry. Every day we seek out opportunities for intimacy to connect with someone and create memories. That may all be made possible when offering a chip.

Chip Shop Chips is currently on tour until 23 March.
Check their next tour dates and locations at
boxoftrickstheatre.co.uk

Kate Morris