DramaNorth East & YorkshireReview

The Debt Collectors – The Civic, Barnsley

Writer: John Godber

Director: Keith Hukin

Reviewer: Ray Taylor

This is a new comedy from well-known playwright John Godber, author of such popular modern classics as Bouncers, Up ‘n Under and Teechers. It concerns two out of work and broke actors who find themselves in the world of debt recovery. They work as a couple of debt collectors trying to retrieve the inordinate amounts of money their clients have run up on their unpaid bills. As you might anticipate they are not particularly successful in their new roles, more often than not coming back empty handed and getting mixed up in a whole series of mishaps, sob stories, violence and even suicide.

Written as a double-hander, the script makes heavy demands on its two performers to which David Walker (Loz) and Kivan Dene (Spud) make an excellent response. Throughout, they engage in a number of quick-fire dialogues that require precision timing and concentration and, as you would expect from Godber, his trademark humour and pathos is never far away. There really are some very funny laugh-out-loud lines and situational comedy. Walker and Dene also play a number of other characters (all debt-owing clients) giving them the opportunity to demonstrate their versatility and comic timing.

Essentially, Loz and Spud are cast in the Vladimir and Estragon mould, two tragicomic heroes to whom life has dealt a series of bitter blows. Despite their best efforts, they always seem to end up back at square one waiting and hoping that things will improve. They have a Micawber-like delusion that “something will turn up.” Their Godot is the next big part to come along, the regular role in a television series, a film contract, a successful job of retrieving some debt. Nothing really changes for Loz and Spud. They struggle just to exist and make ends meet and by the end are really no better off than they were at the beginning. Along the way, we learn about Spud’s rocky marriage and his love for his unfaithful wife and of Loz’s devotion to his dying mother. Spud and Loz have very different outlooks on life. Spud is the more resourceful of the two, always on the make and alert to the main chance. Loz is essentially decent and honest who never seems to get the breaks. Yet just like Beckett’s two tramps, Spud and Loz need each other in order to survive what would otherwise be an extremely lonely and purposeless existence.

Right at the end, Loz pours out his soul in a very impassioned and emotional speech as he looks back at his life and his relationship with Spud. It provides a fitting climax to what is likely to be another hit from this prolific, engaging and entertaining playwright.

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