Review: The Debt Collectors (UK Tour) - York Theatre Royal

John Godber has taken us in to the working lives of many different people throughout the years as he makes his brand of comedic social commentary through the eyes or teachers, bouncers and coach drivers amongst a myriad of others. It is not surprising then, in this time of credit crunched Britain, that his focus turns to The Debt Collectors in a production which he has directed himself.

Currently on tour, The Debt Collectors follows the fortunes (and mis-fortunes) of Spud and Loz, two out of work actors who haven’t had a decent role for months. After giving their soul to theatre the pair have now decided to sell their souls to Katrina’s debt collection company in the hope of a steady income. Their transition from treading the boards to knocking on doors isn’t all straight forward though – to start with there are their costumes and accents to perfect before they can tackle the role for real!

The show works on various levels. At the top level it is very funny with Godber’s trademark sharp dialogue mixed with monologues that punctuate the performance and move proceedings on. Under this layer are comments on the state of the arts (dwindling audience numbers, not enough work for actors) as well as wider issues of debt and the affects it can have on people.

In some ways it was sadly ironic that the play was performed to a less than full house which must be a disappointment to all concerned – and to the audience themselves as comedy often works better to a full house with laughter spreading contagiously. 

The two actors (Godber stalwarts Rob Hudson and William Ilkley) skilfully cover the main two roles as well as a range of incidental characters with great aplomb. They are both thoroughly engaging as they take you through their intertwined stories which cover their past acting successes and failures as well as a brief insight in to Spud’s failing family life. The set, designed by Pip Leckenby, is simple yet versatile and effective, allowing the action to switch locations without the need for any pace killing scenery changes.

This is one of John Godber’s first productions with his new 'John Godber Company' and teaming up with Wafefield Theatre Royal. Unsurprisingly the show has all the hallmarks of the productions audiences will be familiar with from Hull Truck theatre – which is no bad thing as the standards were set very high. This should be the beginning of a great working relationship which will no doubt produce many quality evenings of entertainment.

So if you have the spare money, go and enjoy yourself in the company of the The Debt Collectors – just please don’t get in to money troubles to do so as they know where you live and how much it cost you!

Review by James Eaglesfield