The Chippit Chantie

Sat 6th – Sat 20th August 2011


Juliet Roe

at 11:05 on 13th Aug 2011



It is with great shame that I admit that I spent the first 5 minutes of this show compiling a list of my favourite phrases to be said in a Scottish accent. I resorted to recording such gems as ‘you thankless he-goat’ because, in my senseless Southern-ness, I struggled to understand much of what else was said. This problem was quickly overcome, however, for which I am grateful because this show proved delightful even when not every word was necessarily understood.

A simple, but elegant set supported some truly heroically funny performances from Lyzzie Dell, playing Jemima Tate, and Iain Fraser who played the Judge. Dell’s’s long rambling monologues, which could have been dull were delivered with such, well, character as to have us giggling. A lot. The plot itself is essentially ‘The Government Inspector’ meets ‘The Gilmore Girls’, but with all the action pivoting around a broken chamber pot (the ‘Chantie’, explanations for which were kindly posted up in the venue). A Judge enters his home, mysteriously covered in minor injuries and minus his wig (this is the 18th century remember), only to be informed that an Inspector from Edinburgh is on his way to examine court proceedings in the town. Through a court trial to determine exactly who did break Mrs. Tate’s chantie, observed by the Inspector, revelations emerge about key figures in the town, all the while building a 3D image of small town life. It’s a simple, silly premise that could easily fall flat and didn’t. This was due to the cast’s committing to their roles whilst still maintaining a refreshing sense of not taking themselves too seriously. This was not high drama, this was not particularly challenging (accents aside) but this was really entertaining and warm-hearted.

The sense of camaraderie and fun amongst the cast was infectious, with excellent comic rapports between the Judge and his servant (Mandy Black) and his clerk (John Somerville), and Dell with everyone. The only weak link, in a cast so dedicated to their non-speaking reactions as well as their dialogue, was Leonora Brown, playing Mrs. Tate’s daughter, who needed a prompt near the end and whose timing was ever so slightly off on a number of occasions which jarred with the otherwise very well delivered dialogue. One difficulty that could have provoked this was her being one of the only young characters in a play heavily reliant on those more mature in years and acting experience.

The (complimentary) tea and biscuits in the interval added to the small-town atmosphere, setting this show firmly in the ‘enjoyable evening’ bracket. The cast were enjoying it, the audience were enjoying it, and I had the added sense of achievement of both understanding and enjoying it. Would I sound far too English if I ended with ‘jolly good show’?


Rhiannon Kelly

at 11:27 on 13th Aug 2011



Any production where a member of the team yells “good luck!” as you enter the theatre because you aren’t Scottish; you know that you’re in for a tough haul. However, after a while warming up to the language, Scottish comedy, ‘The Chippit Chantie’ exceeded my initial dubious expectations, and proved a remarkably entertaining evening.

In case you are wondering, the play does indeed revolve around a chantie. Yes. That does mean a chamber pot, a po, a gazunder. The Scottish synonym ‘chantie’ is delightfully named after the French verb ‘chanter’ – to sing – after the sound it makes when you use it! Now, before I get carried away with chamber pot trivia, I must say that this particular chantie has been smashed into smithereens, the production set in 1785, hilariously following Jemima Tait, proud owner of said article, and her absurd court case to find the villain and reap justice.

As you might expect from such a premise, the production is laced in melodrama and dramatic irony, the language ringing with more brash and earthy tones than you would expect in an average church hall. Hearing insults spat from across the courtroom in the broadest Scots, “get ooot!” is something that I will never forget. The cast play off the audience reactions, waggling their eyebrows and flailing their arms; I never knew that such simple and predictable comedy could produce such fits of laughter. Lyzzie Dell does a superb job as Jemima Tait, her lengthy laments for her dear old chantie could easily become boring, but she manages just the right level of self-righteous fortitude to engage everyone as soon as she walks on stage. The dynamic between Judge Boyd (Iain Fraser) and his servant Kate (Mandy Black) was spot on, their scenes alone on stage were perfectly timed and comically executed. The cast worked together as an ensemble with energy and gusto, each individual character had their own hilarious idiosyncrasies that never failed to tickle the audience. My face still hurts from smiling so much.

The play poked fun at the hypocrisy of authority, the bizarre situation only became more bizarre, but as expected from a two and a half hour production centred on a chantie, there is only so far that the premise could go. The second half did drag a bit, and there were moments when the babble got a bit too much. On the whole, the accents were all superb, but Nan Tait (Leonora Brown) sounded more Texan than anything else, and her hesitation and need for a prompt near the end of the play unfortunately let it down.

I didn’t have high hopes for ‘The Chippit Chantie’, but as far as amateur productions go, this is a pretty good one. The cast are clearly having fun, and it is refreshing to see a play that doesn’t take itself seriously. I found it difficult to find some Scottish slang that wasn’t an insult… But that was “pure teckle like”? Ahem. It was great.


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