The Debt Collectors at the Minerva Theatre, Chichester

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The Debt Collectors is darker in tone than some of Godber’s earlier work, but it contains many familiar ‘Godberisms’.

The swift character changes, the patter, the comic one-liners are all there.

As the play opens, two out-of-work actors (played with considerable power by the very much in-work Rob Hudson and William Ilkley) find themselves backstage at the now bankrupt theatre where they last played together in The Dumb Waiter; in desperation they have taken jobs as debt collectors.

Amid the clutter of plays long gone, they reminisce about their failed careers, and Loz (played by Ilkely) begins to imagine the play he might write about their strange situation.

As he imagines, the scenes unfold, taking us through their ineffectual debt-collecting career back to the starting point.

It is a highly theatrical device that is intriguing and entertaining, if slightly self-conscious, as is the debt to Pinter.

The second half grips more than the first, as we learn more about their disintegrating lives, and the comic seriousness serves the important subject well.

Loz’s theft of a typewriter is a nice closing touch.