Take Care, Pet: An Observation of New Play Haddock & Chips

Lashings of salt and vinegar and saturation of home comforts and love, Haddock & Chips, a new play produced by Carol Wears, invites the audience, with open arms and northern charm, into a warm environment in more ways than one. Frankies Fish and Chip shop is a the forefront of the salt-aired seaside town on the North East Coast, famous for its satisfying fish suppers, no other than our very own Whitley Bay. A bustling takeaway is where our enigmatic yarn begins.

A replica of a shop counter against tiled white walls and capture images by a keen amateur photographer, taken by the proprietor, Bob. Although he may have dreamed of a life behind the lens, Bob is pretty happy with his lot, carrying the torch for the family business; everything he does is for his young family and wife, Katie. He employs Brenda- a woman as wise as any ancient philosopher and unable to address any given soul without pet or love. But Brenda and Bob- played by dab hands Phillipa Wilson and Joe Caffery- aren't the only people we discover in this two-hander show.

Pacey, swift, Jake Murray's direction makes ideal use of the back area of the shop through a metal chain curtain and stage left door. As Bob- beautifully believable from Caffrey- and Brenda deal with elements out of sight, new characters enter the stage. And we take to them kindly. It is celebrated, not hidden, that Phillipa and Joe are playing every role, but their authenticity gains our trust. The plot of a missing ten-year-old lass named Amy is the uniting thread, but this bubbles underneath quietly; the bread and butter are the people we meet.

📸 Matt Jamie

Endearing sorts and we're with them, we're there, on the shop floor. We overhear the narration of their stories, their issues, their truths. We are beckoned to listen. And listening is fundamental here. Folk come and go: a glam lass headed out to the town; a young carer who embellishes his exsistance to escape; a drunken, young fella muddling his way through the complexities of lust. A bulb blows, and an elderly lady reminisces candidly of her life under the spotlight; it's not always rosy. Wilson transfixed the audience, their silence speaking volumes.

Playful disco dance scenes and meaningful encounters lead to the uncovering of the local mystery, and an imprint stamped by Janet Plater's observational and natural writing, bursting with wit, is left. Haddock & Chips closed its run at The Exchange Theatre in North Shields, a coastal town with its vivid history to tell, and we gather, as Brenda proclaims, that all anyone is trying to do, is get on in life. And to do this, we focus on the essential stuff, the good stuff: community, togetherness, affection. Home is where the chippy is.

Article by Beverley Knight