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Review: Eastern Angles Famous Four (and-a-half) have ripping fun this Christmas

PUBLISHED: 11:54 16 December 2019 | UPDATED: 11:54 16 December 2019

Eastern Angles Christmas Show engages in some time-travelling shenanigans in The Famous Four (and-a-half) Go Wild in Thetford Forest. Photo: Mike Kwasniak

Eastern Angles Christmas Show engages in some time-travelling shenanigans in The Famous Four (and-a-half) Go Wild in Thetford Forest. Photo: Mike Kwasniak

@ Mike Kwasniak Photography

Review: The Famous Four (and-a-half) Go Wild in Thetford Forest, by Harry Long, Eastern Angles, Sir John Mills Theatre, until January 4, Seckford Theatre, Woodbridge, from January 8-18 2020

Charles Barnett plays the eccentric Auntie Wingnutt in Eastern Angles Christmas Show, The Famous Four (and-a-half) Go Wild in Thetford Forest. Photo: Mike KwasniakCharles Barnett plays the eccentric Auntie Wingnutt in Eastern Angles Christmas Show, The Famous Four (and-a-half) Go Wild in Thetford Forest. Photo: Mike Kwasniak

From the title you would expect this year's Eastern Angles Christmas Show to be a penetrating parody of the writings of Enid Blyton but, to be honest, this year's hare-brained festive romp is much more of a local Scooby-Doo adventure mixed with a generous dollop of Doctor Who-style shenanigans, rather than a mysterious ripping yarn from yester-year.

As always with Eastern Angles, the action proceeds at a furious pace with lots of hat swapping, costume changes and strange, peculiar accents. Directed by Ivan Cutting, the play follows the eponymous heroes (and heroines) as they stay with the wild-haired Auntie Wingnutt at her cottage in Thetford Forest.

It quickly becomes clear that Auntie is a tad eccentric but she can be forgiven because she has invented a time machine that only works in Thetford Forest. Unfortunately, a dark, shadowy figure has made off with the unreliable invention and using the recall device The Famous Four (and-a-half) set off in hot pursuit, popping up in a variety of time periods and meeting a motley assortment of influential characters including Vegan cave men in Grimes Graves, Boudicca, Thomas Paine, Elveden's Duleep Singh and some of the cast of Dad's Army - not to mention an appearance by a famous ginger singer.

The question throughout the evening remains: "Who is the Dark, Shadowy Figure?" The cast - Charles Barnett, Edward Kaye, Lily Smith, Kandaka Moore and Jason Patel - wonderfully conjure up the breathless 'Gee whizz' nature of the characters and actively encourage the audience to let their hair down and engage with the silliness of it all.

There are plenty of songs and even a hair-raising cliff-hanger to end the first half, along with a galaxy of terrible puns and deliberately bad jokes which will have you groaning as you laugh. As an audience you have no choice but to surrender to the good-natured absurdity of it all.

Eastern Angles always offer audiences something different at Christmas - it's a fabulously frenetic two hours of mayhem that provides a fun alternative to panto, which is something to be treasured.

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