A midwinter night’s bream

Gills Around the Green, by Julian Harries and Pat Whymark, Eastern Angles, Sir John Mills Theatre, Ipswich until January 8, 2011; Seckford Theatre, Woodbridge, January 11-22.

’Tis the season to be jolly, fa-la-la-la-la-la-la and it doesn’t get any jollier or fa-la-la-la-la than this.

Eastern Angles Christmas show, Gills Around the Green is an hilarious parcel of fun, merriment, music and extreme silliness.

To reveal all its secrets would be to spoil the surprises but if you’re looking for sea food jokes, this is the plaice to find them. (I know, I know, but after an evening of even worse puns, I don’t care any more.)

The story begins, appropriately, in an icy Suffolk around now. Young Vernon, the commercial traveller, sells anti-wrinkle cream but dreams of being Aqua Boy, a super-hero with a bathroom range of special equipment.

He sets off to deliver a consignment but has reckoned without the intervention of mad scientist Professor Grimsby and a rather irritating woman called Tory.

What happens next is part sci-fi, part bonkers.

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The audience is on tenterhooks: will Vernon fulfil his world-changing destiny in a far distant future or will the east coast crabs get him?

In fact, the comedy addresses some of the most pressing questions facing planet Earth in the 21st century – climate change, over-fishing, pollution, the survival of the human race, the course of evolution – but it is all done with the unique daftness we have come to expect of an Eastern Angles Christmas classic.

Writer and director Julian Harries consummately takes on a number of roles (six) plus assorted voice-overs.

He ranges from patrician leader of a futuristic Suffolk community to a cod-Shakespeare quoting biker but never forsakes that irrepressible schoolboy mischievousness.

Nicholas Agnew has the distinction of having just one part to play; that of central character Vernon Spratt. He is an engaging hero, even in a midi-length tunic and sleeveless pullover.

Holly Ashton is a splendidly disdainful Tory Harrington-Smythe; Rose van Hooff’s Leda is endearing and she transforms wonderfully to become the countryside dweller Grimkin.

Kai Simmons shows himself a truly versatile actor, effortlessly swapping gender and even species!

The costumes, props, set and special effects all have that Eastern Angles seasonal stamp of invention and economy. Pat Whymark’s original score is witty and catchy.


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