The Playhouse, Williamson Square
27th May - 18th June at 19.30pm

Reviewed by Colin Serjent

In a nutshell, this play, directed by Wilson Milam, and shown for the first time outside London since 1997, revolves around the unscrupulous methods used by sales people to sell something to others they do not want.

A young couple, Mark (Domhall Gleeson) and Stevie (Claire Lams), who recently moved into a new house, find themselves almost ambushed inside it by two salesmen, Lawrence (Michael Attwell) and Gabriel (Chuk Iwuji), who tell them, with the help, for example, of polaroids and a flip chart, that their house will fall down unless they buy and use the damp treatment methods they are promoting to the outside walls. I know you have to suspend disbelief in the theatre but why did it take Stevie, who is firmly against the idea of splashing out thousands of pounds on something she knows is a con, until the closing minutes of the play to threaten to call the police to get them ejected from the house.

There is a lot of sharply observed dialogue in Chimps, notably uttered by the pathetic Mark, who dreams that his proposed illustrated children's alphabet book will bring him fame and fortune. He falls under the spell of the ever-increasing sales spiel until he is convinced that he is getting a bargain for something he can't afford. Rings true to me in regard to the methods of the advertising industry and the mugs who believe what they are told. The disagreement between Mark and Stevie gets more pronounced as the play progresses until they clash violently together near the end.

The novel stage setting, designed by Dick Bird, resembles looking into a cut away enlarged children's doll's house, with all the rooms of the building being on view to the audience. Gabriel and Lawrence also grow further apart. Gabriel, the youger and more ruthless salesman of the two, increasingly gets exasperated with the 'flinching' of Lawrence, who is in his 50s, and is trying unsuccessfully to break into the sales world after being made redundant from the poultry industry. The acting of all the four actors was generally fine, but the monotone voice of Lams proved irritating throughout the production. Her overall performance lacked convinction and proved a weak point for me.

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