FEEL-GOOD FACTOR: Actor Phillippa Wilson during rehearsals for Haddock and Chips
FEEL-GOOD FACTOR: Actor Phillippa Wilson during rehearsals for Haddock and Chips

A new play which promises to bring a feel-good factor back to the theatre is currently being premiered across the North East and includes a stop in Barnard Castle on Wednesday, November 3. Senior reporter Stuart Laundy spoke to writer Janet Plater about Haddock and Chips.

“I AM very conscious that people are ready for a good night out and want to be entertained,” says Tyneside playwright Janet Plater.
While the subject of her latest play – reports of a missing child – is a serious matter, she promises a heart-warming evening with laughter, music and even some dancing, all set in a fictional Whitley Bay fish and chip shop.
She says it is the story of a community pulling together and features an array of characters, all portrayed by the show’s two actors, Phillippa Wilson and Joe Caffrey.
“The play is set over the course of one evening and shows how the community comes together as concern increases. We meet lots of different characters and different personalities.”
Ms Plater conceived the play prior to the pandemic and having been put on hold, she was keen to see it performed at the earliest opportunity post-Covid.
“We did a bit of research and development with the play and were planning to take it out last year.
“We did a little bit of reading in front of a few invited people but then had to put it away where it’s been on ice,” she said.
Ms Plater said there was a subsequent discussion as to whether the script should include reference to the pandemic and characters wearing masks but this was discounted.
“We thought there was an appetite for a night out in a theatre with relatable characters,” she said.
Ms Plater said she had been on hand during rehearsals – the show previewed at The Exchange, North Shields, on Wednesday, October 20 – to help and support cast and director.
“I have been involved with the production. I have been around rehearsals. There have been many things we have discussed, how it might be staged and how a character might react. There are little tweaks and changes.
“We have two very talented actors. The way they flick between characters is quite fantastic.
“I have known them for many years and seen their work. They are experienced and quite brilliant and they have worked together many times – possibly since youth theatre.”
Despite her confidence in those taking to the stage, Ms Plater admitted she would be apprehensive as the play was put before audiences for the first time.
“I will be very nervous – but I have been in rehearsals and I have been moved, I have laughed and we have got a brilliant choreographer and that has really delighted and surprised me. I think we have something brilliant to show you.”
Without giving too much away, the audience can look forward to an uplifting finale.
“We want people to leave the theatre feeling positive about their community,” said Ms Plater.
Haddock and Chips arrives at The Witham, in Barnard Castle, on Wednesday, November 3, mid-way through its busy tour schedule.
While there is still reluctance among some to return to the theatre with the spectre of Covid still looming large, the decision was taken to press ahead this autumn rather than postpone to next year.
“[Producer] Carole [Mears] and I felt we should have a go for it and travel hopefully,” added Ms Plater.
“I know there is some caution and I am acutely aware of what we are asking of audiences to come and venture out to see our show.”
Tickets for the show are available priced £12 and £10. Call the box office on 01833 631107, or go to thewitham .org.uk. The show starts at 7.30pm.
In addition arts centre officials have teamed up with staff at Katie's Fish and Chips, in Horsemarket, who are offering ten per cent off a takeaway on November 3 on production of a valid ticket for the show.