Buckle my swash, Common Ground stage The Count of Monte Cristo spoof

Common Ground Theatre Company stage The Count of Monte Cristo

Common Ground Theatre Company stage The Count of Monte Cristo - Credit: Archant

There’s nothing quite like a Common Ground Theatre Company show.

Common Ground Theatre Company stage The Count of Monte Cristo

Common Ground Theatre Company stage The Count of Monte Cristo - Credit: Archant

Committed to keeping small-scale theatre alive and well in East Anglia, Pat Whymark and Julian Harries are responsible for some of the best shows I’ve seen. This time they’re taking on Alexander Dumas’ banquet of heroes, villains, pirates and princesses - The Count of Monte Cristo.

For those not familiar with the plot, dashing sailor Edmond Dantes is framed by three enemies - one wants his girl, one wants his career and one wants his silence. After 17 years imprisoned in the infamous Chateau D’Oeuf with a mad priest full of tales of secret treasure, Dantes is egged on by his friend Abbe Faria to escape. He recovers the treasure, becomes ridiculously rich and reinvents himself as the mysterious Count of Monte Cristo and starts plotting his revenge.

Expect lunacy, dodgy accents, songs and sheer daftness.

“The original (text) is very complex, with lots of interweaving, odd little subplots. Dantes revenge is very complicated. So we’ve distilled it down and just made it very silly and kind of Christmas show-ish,” says director and producer Harries. “It’s a very Blackadder, Monty Python sort of spoof.”

The show is on tour now, starting off at Ipswich's Sir John Mills Theatre this weekend

The show is on tour now, starting off at Ipswich's Sir John Mills Theatre this weekend - Credit: Archant

It’s a massive show for such a small-scale tour, boasting just five actors - including Joe Leat and Alice Mottram from last year’s excellent The Mystery of St Finnigan’s Elbow.

In the middle of tech rehearsal when I call, he’s still waiting for silly joke beards to turn up and desperately trying to source various other comedy props.

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“There are lots of props, lots of costume changes. There’s all sorts of 19th Century gear, exotic locations to recreate so it’s been a challenge,” laughs Harries, working behind the scenes as he’s preparing for a national tour of The Silver Sword, coming to the New Wolsey in November.

Written by Whymark, The Count of Monte Cristo features two more familar faces.

“We’ve lots of silly puppets, there’s the return of the two owls from our Christmas show Bats Over Bleedham Market. They were a bit of a hit then so we’ve brought them back as kind of doleful Peter Cook and Dudley Moore type owls. There’s lots of our usual Christmas show nonsense - comedy quick changes, an unusual fight in the form of a French music hall, I won’t give too much away.

“We do make ourselves laugh, we just hope other people share the same sense of humour,” he laughs.

Suitable for ages seven plus, the tour starts at Ipswich’s Sir John Mills Theatre tonight and tomorrow, before hitting the road. Click here for full tour details.

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