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It's a rootin' tootin' funny show

PUBLISHED: 23:11 07 December 2001 | UPDATED: 10:59 03 March 2010

Parson Combs and the Ballad of Mad Dog Creek



Sir John Mills Theatre, Gatacre Road, Ipswich

until 19 January 2002



MAD Dog Creek may be a one horse town, but what a talented horse he is.

Parson Combs and the Ballad of Mad Dog Creek

Sir John Mills Theatre, Gatacre Road, Ipswich

until 19 January 2002

MAD Dog Creek may be a one horse town, but what a talented horse he is.

Not only can he talk the hind legs off a mule, but he also proves himself to be a true four-legged friend, helping the hero of this spoof western escape the town jail and the gold-grubbing clutches of the dastardly Gaylord Straker.

Our hero, by the way, is a Suffolk country parson sent on the 19th Century equivalent of an exchange visit to the Wild West. The depiction of his journey across the Atlantic to his final destination is a real delight – the simplest of props are used to represent a carriage, a ship, a train and finally a stage-coach, beset, of course, by Indians. But this is the sort of delicious ingenuity we have come to expect from Eastern Angles' Christmas productions, and this year's is no exception.

Arriving in Mad Dog Creek, Rev Combs is quickly caught up in the sort of madcap rootin' tootin' adventure he has, until now, only read about in the penny dreadful comics he sneaks into the vestry back home.

All the staples of the western are here, and used to great comic effect – the prospector cheated of his claim, the saloon brawl, the gun fight, the Magnificent Seven (well, almost), even, with a lot of help from the audience, a cattle stampede – and the whole thing is carried off with tremendous aplomb by a multi-talented cast of five.

Stefan Atkinson (who grew up in Ipswich) has just the right amount of stuffy Englishness as the parson and Julian Harries relishes every moment as the smarmy villain. Eleanor Brunsdon as the feisty heroine Jem and Philip Michell who doubles hilariously as her father Chip and the outlaw "Snake Hat" Calhoun are excellent, and Elizabeth Piper, playing the man-hungry saloon hostess Belle McBlade – surely the fastest drawers in the West – is a comedienne of real class, and a fine singer, too.

The script, by Julian Harries, who doesn't miss a trick, is packed full of jokes, with opportunities for vocal audience participation (we all get to play a barnyard animal), and Pat Whymark has produced clever pastiches of cowboy and country and western songs.

The music, incidentally, is all provided by members of the cast, who variously play the piano, the violin, guitars and a strange percussion instrument that perfectly reproduces the eerie sound of a rattlesnake at bay.

This is great entertainment for the Christmas season, from the opening ballad to the final showdown. So get down to this show – there's gold in that thar Sir John Mills!

JAMES HAYWARD


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