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REVIEW: THEATRE Chip Shop Chips Lobster Pot, Liverpool.

Byline: CATHERINE JONES Arts Editor catherine.jones@trinitymirror.com @BodenJones

YOU can't beat dinner and a show - as the Royal Court discovered after reconfiguring its stalls into cabaret seating.

But, while they're known to break down the fourth wall there, it's still not the fully immersive experience delivered by Box of Tricks theatre company in its new sitespecific show.

Chip Shop Chips is touring the North, being performed in village halls, community centres, libraries and, yes, chippies, with a trio of dates in Merseyside culminating with a performance at Liverpool's famous Lobster Pot.

Just the plaice, as Eric (Russell Richardson), the effusive owner of Booth's fish and chip shop might say.

And, yes, Becky Prestwich's warmhearted script offers more fishy puns than you can throw a crab stick at, from new cod on the block to give peas a chance, as Eric banters his way with increasing desperation through an ambitious night's entertainment at the family frying firm.

Returning to take up the reins from his late father, after running a bar on a Thai beach, he's relaunched Booth's with exotic sauces, an alcohol licence and their soonto-be infamous bread and butter pudding. We, the audience, are the punters at the grand reopening night, complete with real chippy teas (courtesy of the Lobster Pot) - and urged on by Eric's master of ceremonies bonhomie to take part in his quizzes and party games.

In case you're wondering, the newspaper hat was very fetching, even if my knowledge of the lifespan of cod let me down.

Eric is aided by a new sidekick, Ben-Ryan Davies' sweetly nervous Lee, a boy from a deprived background promoted from chief kitchen pot washer to waiter in his first proper job.

But the carefully planned evening of "Northern sole and chips" takes an unexpected turn with the arrival of Eric's former teenage sweetheart, the newlywidowed Chrissie, and her grand-daughter. Prestwich's script ponders life, love, loss, memory and nostalgia, pride and hurt and the rawness of betrayal, the what-ifs and might-have-beens of most ordinary lives, missed chances and the wondering if we can ever turn back the clock.

As Eric tries to keep his big night on track, Chrissie (Julie Edwards) wistfully recounts their youthful passions in syncopated asides. We hear her thoughts, while, later, fuelled by an elicit flask of spirits, thoughts become words voiced to the world.

In a parallel plot, Lee and the brittle "school goddess" Jasmine (Jessica Forrest) circle each other, shedding awkward miscommunications and teenage bravado to perhaps find their own young love.

Although it's essentially a modest tale, it's inventively realised by Box of Tricks and its four-strong cast.

And while there's a good story arc, there's also scope to tighten the action - it could easily lose 10 minutes from the running time.

But, as a first-hand experience of the power and pleasure of theatre, Chip Shop Chips is certainly worth its salt. And vinegar. .....

CAPTION(S):

Plaice settings ... Russell Richardson and Jessica Forrest in conversation at the dining table, in Chip Shop Chips Picture: LUCAS SMITH

A modest tale, inventively realised - Ben-Ryan Davies and Russell Richardson in Chip Shop Chips Picture: LUCAS SMITH

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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)
Date:Feb 26, 2016
Words:523
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