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Arts Diary: Drama with touch of early Ayckbourn; THEATRE Chimps, Liverpool Playhouse Philip Key reports on a 'proper' play with a beginning and an end.

Byline: Philip Key

CHIMPS is what might be called a proper play: it has genuine characters, a plot that develops them, a beginning and an end. For some reason which is inexplicable, the play is only now getting its regional premiere in Liverpool following a 1997 Hampstead Theatre production.

It has been seen in other countries and quite rightly so as Simon Block's comedy/drama is the sort of thing Alan Ayckbourn was writing in his early days, a play that touches everyone. It's about hard-pressure sales people who push you to buy things which you thought you never needed, in this case a paint which holds up the walls of your house. Your house is unlikely to need this stuff, but the sales people keep pushing.

In Block's play they arrive at the new home of a couple who have just moved in, the girl-friend freshly pregnant. He invited them in because one salesman was black and he thought he needed help, she is tough-minded and just wants the sales people to go.

Over the course of an evening, the sales pitch gets harder and harder while the couple break further apart as a result.

Block's special trick is to have the salesmen as real characters, one, Gabriel, hard-boiled and prepared to make the sale, the other, Lawrence, an older man whose poultry business has gone down the tubes and is trying to make a new start in sales.

While the girlfriend, Stevie, is believable, it is difficult to take the naivety of boy-friend Mark although his stupidity is what drives the play forward.

Block has an ability to capture dialogue in its raw state while still coming up with some very funny lines.

A cast of four produce wonderful sparks off each other, Claire Lams a strong Stevie, Domhnall Gleeson a suitably weak Mark, Chuk Iwuji a hard Gabriel and - above all - Michael Attwell playing the sweaty, unbalanced Lawrence.

Wilson Milam directs strongly in a boxy set from designer Dick Bird


Michael Attwell as Lawrence, standing, with other cast members
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Jun 2, 2005
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