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Eastern Angles anniversary Christmas show is screamingly funny

PUBLISHED: 16:54 10 December 2018 | UPDATED: 18:08 10 December 2018

Joe Leat, Geri Allen and Eloise Kay on their guard in The Fenland Screamers and Other Boggy Tales, this year's Eastern Angles Christmas Show  Photo: Mike Kwasniak

Joe Leat, Geri Allen and Eloise Kay on their guard in The Fenland Screamers and Other Boggy Tales, this year's Eastern Angles Christmas Show Photo: Mike Kwasniak

Mike Kwasniak Photography, 2018 - www.mikekwasniak.co.uk

Eastern Angles is celebrating 30 years of their irreverent Christmas show with the gloriously surreal tale of The Fenland Screamers. Arts Editor Andrew Clarke gets enjoyably lost in this ripping yarn set in the roaring twenties

The terror strikes Geri Allen in The Fenland Screamers and Other Boggy Tales, this year's Eastern Angles Christmas Show  Photo: Mike KwasniakThe terror strikes Geri Allen in The Fenland Screamers and Other Boggy Tales, this year's Eastern Angles Christmas Show Photo: Mike Kwasniak

Review: The Fenland Screamers and Other Boggy Tales, by Julian Harries and Pat Whymark, Eastern Angles, Sir John Mills Theatre until Jan 5, Seckford Theatre, Woodbridge, Jan 9-19 2019

Eastern Angles celebrates the 30th anniversary of their Christmas show with a brilliantly funny pastiche of H Rider Haggard’s She and the derring-do adventures of English upper-class ‘chaps’ and their ‘gels’ which were so popular in the 1920s and 30s.

Written and directed by Eastern Angles stalwarts Julian Harries and Pat Whymark, writers of the bulk of the Christmas shows, masters of the parody and lovers of the surreal, it is fitting that they have delivered a new masterpiece to celebrate this seasonal milestone.

Like the 2008 show The Haunted Commode, this latest show is a portmanteau collection of bizarre tales of suspense and horror told (and enacted as flashbacks) by party-goers trapped in an isolated manor house situated in the wilds of the Cambridgeshire Fens.

James MacNaughton plays the goat in The Fenland Screamers and Other Boggy Tales, this year's Eastern Angles Christmas Show  Photo: Mike KwasniakJames MacNaughton plays the goat in The Fenland Screamers and Other Boggy Tales, this year's Eastern Angles Christmas Show Photo: Mike Kwasniak

The guests have been invited to the house by a mysterious host who known of them know. They are greeted by a slightly strange butler called Tangent who disappears after warning them about mysterious goings-on in the boggy regions of the Fen.

Harries and Whymark keep the pace going at a dizzying pace, throwing one laugh after another at the audience, bombarding them with both double and single entendres as well as a succession of surreal sight-gags.

The cast, a mix of old-hands and new faces, know the importance of playing this madness with a straight face but you are left in no doubt that they are having the time of their lives and this infectious enthusiasm feeds itself to the audience.

Joe Leat and Eloise Kay are Sloppy and Sixpence, two twenties twits who don’t realise they are in love, while Geri Allen is fashion designer Purdita, James MacNaughton is washed up adventurer Flippersby and Anthony Pinnick is Tangent, the butler with the spasm.

James MacNaughton finds that a helping hand isn't always what you need in The Fenland Screamers and Other Boggy Tales, this year's Eastern Angles Christmas Show  Photo: Mike KwasniakJames MacNaughton finds that a helping hand isn't always what you need in The Fenland Screamers and Other Boggy Tales, this year's Eastern Angles Christmas Show Photo: Mike Kwasniak

Songs by Pat Whymark add to the hilarity and are brilliantly delivered by the cast and the evening seems to disappear in a laughter-filled flash. It is the mixture of inventiveness, silliness and the feeling of a shared experience that makes the Eastern Angles Christmas Shows so special.

After 30 years they still feel as fresh as they did when they were first unveiled in 1988. They are a brilliant alternative to a pantomime and long may they continue. Hilariously life-affirming, but watch out for the Screamers!

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