Monthly Archives: January 2016

Holy Mackerel!

(reviewed at Sir John Mills Theatre, Ipswich on 19 December 2016)

You expect something different from Eastern Angles’ Christmas shows – and this year’s offering certainly lives up to that expectation. The script is by Harry Long and produced in partnership with the West Country-based Shanty Theatre Company. The story (yes, there is one, and it’s based on fact) concerns what happened in 1896 when East Anglian fishing-boats muscled in on the mackerel shoals around Newlyn.

At that period, most of the Newlyn fishermen were staunch Methodists, not putting to sea between Saturday sunset and Monday dawn. The East Anglians (nicknamed “Yorkies” in Cornwall) had no such scruples and cornered the weekend market by loading their catches onto the early Monday morning train to Billingsgate market in London.

Unsurprisingly, rioting ensued which involved over 1,000 Cornish men. Long’s script homes in on just a few main characters, neatly defined for the audience by wearing their names (or those of their boats) on skirts or tarpaulins. Mags (Louise Callaghan) is our heroine, an attractive committed Methodist who falls for not-too-bright Norman (Long) who, among other educational deficiencies, has no idea of what Methodism might be.

No story to do with the sea would be complete without a thorough-going villain. Christian Edwards plays Brassy, all country-gentleman tweeds and shooting-stick; he is the owner of the boats attempting to muscle in on the Cornish mackerel harvest. Mabel Clements and David Copeland complete the cast which – Tim Bell’s production is in the full Eastern Angles tradition of 17 parts (not to mention songs, dances and instrumental accompaniments) being shared among a minimum quantity of players.

Verity Quinn has designed some interesting sets and costumes. Stu McLoughlin is the composer with Barnaby Southgate as musical director. Penny Griffin’s lighting adds to the atmosphere. It may be slightly offbeat even for an Eastern Angles Christmas show but this collaboration with a like-minded theatre company suggests that the seeds of similar productions may already be germinating.

Holy Mackerel! is at the Seckford Theatre, Woodbridge until 23 January and at the Key Theatre, Peterborough between 26 and 30 January.

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Filed under Pantomimes & seasonal shows, Reviews 2015

Evolution (Cirque de Glace)

(reviewed at the Theatre Royal, Norwich on 20 January)

Three words sum up Evolution – skill, ice and fire. This latest touring production from the Russian ice stars (these include performers from Estonia and Ukraine) is a far more coherent piece of work than its predecessor as it traces the progress of our universe from its beginnings in molten lava to the havoc which unfettered industrialisation generates.

Evolution‘s message therefore is an ecological one, albeit one presented with a degree of subtlety. The visual aspects – from the heaving black mass twisted into a cone central stage with which we begin, to the deforestation and relentless corporate grind as business-suited skaters rush endlessly to the dictates of their mobile phones – are excellent with costumes and settings (John Spence) complementing Chris Wilkey’s special effects.

There are a lot of these, many involving fire. Phil Water’s script keeps us in the picture as the 17 scenes succeed each other with Steve Millington and Stu Shaw’s score underlying (sometimes with a relentless brutality reminiscent of Le sacré du printemps) and action and accompanying the skaters and acrobats.

Julian Deplidge is the creative director (no choreographer as such is credited in the programme). Ekaterina Belokopytova is the principal acrobat, playing Gaia – earth mother and goddess – whose delicate balance on the globe is so threatened by man’s ruthlessness. If primates lumber amid nature’s richness, the delicate winged trio of insects which precedes their arrival offer an ethereal prologue.

The invention of the wheel, symbolised by Svetlana Golubeva, and the discovery of the many properties of fire, for both good and evil, are other moments to savour. The skaters perform with dash and style as well as skill, with some extremely good lifts displaying the performers’ perfect timing. Yes, it’s blatantly spectacular almost to a point where its message becomes submerged but it is good theatre which integrates acrobatics and skate dancing to fine effect.

Evolution (Cirque de Glace) plays at the Theatre Royal, Norwich until 23 January with matinée performances on 21 and 23 January.

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Filed under Circus & physical theatre, Reviews 2016