At first glance, a play about two middle-aged orphans who live surrounded by a suffocating pile of hoarded clothes, bags and papers does not sound like an enticing prospect.

But Chichester’s latest offering in the intimate Minerva Theatre, by writer Deborah Bruce, is a heartwarming, funny and enlightening evening. On entering the Minerva you are confronted with the most incredible set: claustrophobic and messy, with kitchen units hanging off the walls, curated with astonishing attention to detail by designer Max Jones and director Jeremy Herrin.

The co-dependent siblings’ relationship is a fascinating thing to behold. Without giving too much of the plot away, which is a marvel of incremental revelations, the play comes at a time when they are forced to interact with the outside world, through the agency of a guileless boy who won’t take no for an answer.

The tension comes from how the siblings are perceived by the outside world, and how we tend to be automatically suspicious of those we don’t immediately understand or those who don’t conform to the usual social norms. But rather than being worthy and stodgy the script is light, humorous and with some wonderful one liners: “You look like a big dog who has eaten a small dog’s food”.

The leads (Samantha Spiro and Daniel Ryan) have clearly done their research; their portrayals of the vulnerable Peppy and Daniel are pitch-perfect, dealing with the complexities of the text and the mannerisms of less socially-aware people astutely and with an infinite degree of humanity. Another standout is Rudi Millard as Ben, the 8-year old neighbour who comes to visit the siblings because he loves testing Daniel’s photographic memory of books, and because he doesn’t really have a happy home life or friends of his own age.

The play is beautifully acted by the entire cast, and remains compelling and emotionally engaging from start to finish.

Emily Angus