ROUND THE TWIST!
by Brendan Murray music by Richard Taylor.
Seckford Theatre Burkitt Road Woodbridge IP12 4JH 10-21 January.
Mon-Sat 7.45pm Mat Wed 3.30pm Sat 4.15pm.
TICKETS: 01394 615015.
then Cresset Theatre Rightwell Bretton Centre PE3 8DX 24-28 January 2012.
7.30pm Mat Thu 1.30pm Sat 4pm.
TICKETS: 01733 265705.
Runs 2hr 15min One interval.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 4 January at Sir John Mills Theatre Ipswich.
Five superb performances in a piece that takes on Dickens with understanding.
Here’s a funny thing. Eastern Angles is a company that produces many a fine thing. For me, one of their follies is their Christmas show, where any hope of adventure is obfuscated by a thick fog of weak double entendres. Still, it seems what they like in Ipswich, and it’s not quite a pantomime. Anyway, these shows roll merrily along; for others at least.
Two years ago they asked Brendan Murray to write a Jane Austen-based comedy, leading to Mansfield Park…and Ride, an inspired title for a play with little inspiration on show. This year, Murray’s honed-in on Dickens with a piece subtitled to cram awkwardly in every Dickens title. And then some.
Yet the piece itself is far better, despite the annual lavatory wall’s worth of puerile humour, in which the hero repeatedly explains his nickname Tiny Tom, and searches for his nudge-nudge “credentials” and wink-wink “testimonials”. Yet side by side with that, and the emphatic panto-like puns (“These are our peak week papers”), there’s an understanding of Dickens’ methods.
Theatrical family the Crumbles provide the frame, incorporating Nicholas Nickleby. There’s an old curiosity shop, too, possible forebear of a supermarket. Great Expectations and David Copperfield feature strongly. Richard Taylor’s songs provide a little light music along the way as Murray develops multiple story parodies and the complicated, sometimes contrived structure of a Dickens novel.
Ian Teague’s set atmospherically creates a crowded old Victorian quarter, over which Angles Artistic Director Ivan Cutting marshals a busy and exemplary cast as they change costume and character while moving into the thick woods of Murray’s plot.
Gabrielle Douglas combines a clear, realistic voice with sharply pointed looks, and Sally Ann Burnett finely-pitched Dickensian caricatures, like Greg Wagland, his facial features twitching knowingly. Zach Lee etches his Dickensian portraits with a brilliant comic edge; his Uriah Heep character, all twisted body and turned-away facial malevolence, is finely controlled and hilarious.
Joel Sams brings open naivety to the young hero, who eventually finds his credentials etc. Though, in a loose end, there’s one attribute he fails, surprisingly, to discover. After all, anyone can whistle.
Oliver Nicklefield/Tiny Tom: Joel Sams.
Miss Moody Crumbles/Little Mell/Dorabella#1: Gabrielle Douglas.
Mrs Crumbles/Foggotty/Dorabella#2: Sally Ann Burnett.
Crumbles/Magpie/Miss Haversack/The Old Gent/McCaber: Greg Wagland.
Mr Grudge/Jammy Dodger/Obadiah Snoop/Doctor/Aged P: Zach Lee.
Director: Ivan Cutting.
Designer: Ian Teague.
Lighting/Sound: Penny Griffin.
Musical Director: Richard Taylor.