Review: Chuggers @ 3MT, Afflecks Palace, Manchester

From Peep Show’s Mark and Jeremy to Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, Del Boy and Rodney, or the questionable Chuckle Brothers – there’s no shortage of male comedy power couples.

And it is fair to say that Mark and Jelly in Chuggers probably take a little inspiration from each.

Every week we each pass endless clones of these two characters.

From Market Street’s preying charity vultures, eyeing up whether we’ve got enough dosh to fork out for a direct debit for dog rehoming to St Anne’s joke book punters, arms outstretched, banding out the crucial seven words, ‘I’m not trying to sell you anything!’ – these people are everywhere.

So for a play to be written about Manchester’s charity collectors this late into 2015 is almost a surprise. Why’s it taken this long?

Giving a glimpse into the reality of doing a job you’d probably hate more than your own, the pair paint a hilarious picture of laddish vulgarity and self-loathing.

Remember that Greek song from the final shootout in Lock, Stock? Well, you’ll find it again here, but instead of shots fired, it’s charity cat calling as the duo work themselves into a climactic ascension as they gleefully bounce around the stage in a brilliant opening scene.

Jelly, played by writer Ben Baxter – who also bears an uncanny resemblance to Stephen Mulhern – steals the show, his boyish, immature charm and unbounded confidence taking to task a man who has nothing but a job he hates.

This Dapper Laughs of the charity fundraising industry (My best day? When I fingered Michelle behind Betfred) has all the naïvety of ITV’s King of Banter, but compensates for it with the irony Dapper lacks. Thank god.

And his partner in crime – perhaps almost too literally, given the moral catharsis the play inevitably reaches – is Mark, played by Calum Scott.

Mark, an emotional wreck obsessed with an ex who doesn’t care for him but blind to the best friend who does, neatly steers the play round to a tidy conclusion and enough self-realisation to make all those direct debit payments worthwhile.

With just one more performance left, tonight – and on Bonfire Night, no less – this is one spontaneous charity commitment you won’t be regretting any time soon.

Tickets, priced at £6, are available here.

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