There is a real hustle and bustle at The Hub, a Salford community centre, for Box of Tricks’ new production. Chip Shop Chips is a play with a difference – it’s fusion between theatre and food, dining and performance – tables are laid out with red and white check tablecloths and the audience sit around drinking tea out of polystyrene cups waiting for their fish supper. There is a warm, nostalgic atmosphere and a feeling of community as strangers strike up conversations with each other and share memories of their local chippy.
It’s the grand reopening of Booth and Sons Fish & Chip Shop – the new ‘cod’ on the block and the new ‘plaice’ to be, or so Eric Booth hopes. Following the death of his father, 60-year-old Eric (Russell Richardson) returns home to take over the family chip shop business. Surely, with hardworking chippy apprentice Lee (Ben-Ryan Davies) by his side, nothing can go wrong? However, when Eric’s first love Christine (Julie Edwards) walks in unexpectedly to the big opening night with her granddaughter Jasmine (Jessica Forrest), he is completely thrown. Over forty years have passed and neither are living the lives that they imagined that they would. Aside from the smell of salt and vinegar, there is also young love in the air as Lee and Jasmine, who remember each other from high school, explore the feelings of teenage romance.
Director Adam Quayle makes full use of the whole performance space and as the gripping story of family and love unfolds in the chip shop, the audience become Eric’s customers, adding to the intimacy of the performance. There is an opportunity to take part in a chippy quiz, share your chip shop story and craft a hat out of newspaper. All of these activities are cleverly woven into the main narrative; sadly, in a room full of people rustling paper to make a hat, it was disappointing to see some of Becky Prestwich’s wonderful dialogue lost. However, with more experience in front of a live audience, this can be easily worked on. What makes this production so appealing is that Box of Tricks have really challenged themselves and produced an immersive show with a lot of heart.
The mouth-watering chippy set by designer Katie Scott provides the perfect backdrop for the brilliant cast of four. Julie Edwards gives a powerful performance as the shaky handed and lonely widow Christine, looking for one last adventure. Jessica Forrest shines as granddaughter Jasmine, intelligent and funny – her one liners had the audience in stitches. Russell Richardson is also strong as chip shop owner Eric, a jolly frontman for the business while balancing his inner grief. Ben-Ryan Davies warms as the supportive chip shop worker, tugging at our heart strings as the illiterate but kind-hearted Lee.
Chip Shop Chips is a fabulous show for everyone – those who are new to theatre and those seasoned theatre goers. It’s a superb evening and a joyous trip down memory lane, celebrating love through the ages and the nations favourite food.
Chip Shop Chips is touring until 23rd March 2016 and you can see all tour dates and purchase tickets here.