This time last year Liverpool Actors Studio staged John Godber’s Teechers, the first in-house production by English Rice, who had taken over the venue. The playwright’s accessible style – both for audiences and theatres with tiny budgets – proved ideal for the place, so it is no surprise to see another of his works there so soon.
The Debt Collectors is a recent work from 2011, described by the Guardian at the time as “a subprime Bouncers for the bankruptcy era”. It tells the tale of Spud (John Doull) and Loz (Michael Swift), two long-time out-of-work actors who have taken jobs as bailiffs to pay the bills. Both past 50 and with their best days behind them – Spud a faded TV star fallen on hard times, Loz the mild-mannered friend who never seemed to catch a break – the play examines masculinity, power, ageing and the stuff of life in uncertain times. There are certain stylistic similarities to Bouncers, perhaps Godber’s best known play – the characters are supposed to be heavies after all, and introduce themselves with a similar swagger, breaking the fourth wall to share their inner thoughts with the audience in soliloquies.
Swift and Doull are a great pairing, the former capturing the gentle, dependable soul who has spent a lifetime swallowing his pride, the latter an intimidating presence with a raging temper and arrogance the audience can see has cost him dearly over the years. Godber’s text labours its point at times, but on the whole is smart and entertaining.
Both funny and dramatic, this two hander is a well-performed, really enjoyable show. It runs at the Actors Studio on Seel Street until March 29.