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