Review: Haddock and Chips at the Exchange Theatre- a joyful reminder of community spirit

A vibrant and warming new play comes to a North Shields theatre.

Ruby Taylor
19th November 2021
Image Credit: Exchange Theatre on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/attheexchange/photos/a.205255899811303/1580343052302574/
Haddock and Chips is a new play by Janet Plater, completely set in Frankie’s Chippy in Whitley Bay. It follows two chip shop workers over the course of one night when a young girl has gone missing in the area. The play reveals the life of the characters who come into the chippy, and the strong community that pulls together to find her.

Haddock and Chips is packed with local knowledge and references, making it specific to the North East, and especially Whitley Bay. This was lovely to see at a small theatre in North Shields. but the play has also been toured in many different small venues throughout the North East over October and November. 

The entire story is set in the best loved chippy in Whitley Bay, Frankie’s Chip Shop. The set, designed by Louis Price, along with the sound and lighting design by Chris Neville-Smith and Corrie Livesey respectively, made you feel like you were really there in the chip shop, with real chip boxes and photographs on the wall taken by Joe Caffrey’s character. The setting of the chippy was perfect for a story about community, as many of the characters and families had been going to Frankie’s all their lives, through generations. 

Phillipa Wilson in 'Haddock and Chips' at The Exchange Theatre. Image Credit: Exchange Theatre on Facebook- https://www.facebook.com/attheexchange/photos/a.201463950190498/1580506298952916/

What made the play so lively was the different characters that were a part of the story, all portrayed by Phillippa Wilson and Joe Caffrey, who both multiroled as workers in the chip shop and those coming in to it. Even with there just being the two of them, the story was full of life and energy, with the actors serving and chatting with customers who were left to the audiences’ imagination. They expertly differentiated between these many characters in their acting, and you really felt like you were meeting many different people throughout the show. Furthermore, the playwright managed to subvert the audiences expectations of a character by the end of each scene, breaking down stereotypes about the different people coming into the shop.  

Personally, the loveliest moment between these characters was when they danced together on stage. They were such feel-good moments, demonstrating a sense of community between the characters with movement direction by Lee Pound that felt very natural and free. 

Phillippa Wilson and Joe Caffrey in 'Haddock and Chips' at The Exchange Theatre.
Image Credit- Exchange Theatre on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/attheexchange/photos/a.205255899811303/1581653318838214/

Sitting in the theatre, you felt really connected to the characters on the stage. Not only was the venue intimate, so you were closer to the action, but the actors seemed to talk directly to you in their monologues. They also drank real drinks, and swept up properly on stage when the wooden forks were knocked down. Joe Caffrey really took pictures of the audience with his camera on stage.

All of this meant as an audience member, you felt more connected to the characters, and as such loved them even more.  

I was not alone in loving the play: the whole audience clapped along as the actors danced, and gave a standing ovation at the end of the show. Haddock and Chips was a wonderful show that left everyone feeling uplifted and joyful by the end, and remembering the value of community. 

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AUTHOR: Ruby Taylor
First year English Literature and Creative Writing student.

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