THE Debt Collectors is a milestone play for a number of reasons.
It is the first tour produced by the newly-formed partnership of The John Godber Company and Theatre Royal Wakefield, and the first since Godber ended his 26-year working relationship with Hull Truck.
These themes – of starting afresh and a huge part of your life coming to an end – are intrinsic in The Debt Collectors, and at times, the words spoken by the protagonists could have come straight from Godber reflecting on his time in Hull.
The play begins with actors-turned-baliffs Spud and Loz back in a theatre where they once ‘trod the boards’, but not for a script-reading or audition, but to collect a big debt for wood.
Then we go back in time to before the pair stopped acting, meeting up at auditions, backstage, and the odd pub, before they were forced to make a living another way.
The relationship between Rob Hudson’s Spud and William Ilkley’s Loz constantly shifts between best mates, father/son and boss/employee as Loz gets more and more frustrated with bailiff life.
Like in all Godber’s plays, there are moments of pure hilarity, like when the pair club together to pay an old man’s debt, but we also scratch the surface of pure despair – Spud’s reaction when he discovers his wife is cheating on him and Loz’s breakdown being particularly heart-wrenching.
The characters were entirely believable and thoroughly well-played by two actors that work brilliantly together.
Is this the show that will launch the company onto the world’s stage (excuse the pun)? I’m not so sure, but it is classic Godber, and thoroughly enjoyable.