The Day the Earth Wobbled a Bit
Eastern Angles Theatre Company
Sir John Mills Theatre, Ipswich
Following its stupendous Master of Mayhem last year, Eastern Angles has decided to boldly go into the realms of 1950s sci-fi for this year's Christmas show, with a tale of mad scientists, green aliens and flying saucers.
When cricket ace Bruce Merritt (Edward Jaspers) is asked to give a talk at his old school, he slowly realises that the invitation from his former science teacher Prof Honeytuft (Sean McLevy) is not what it seems. He and the Prof are being tricked by aliens from the stricken planet Melamine ('the smooth, white, shiny one') who need a human male to do the honours at their seasonal 'mingling' - the planet is inhabited entirely by females - and father a new generation of Melamites. But Bruce, already enamoured of the Prof's feisty daughter Sally (Christine Holman), does not warm to his task, until Melamite Commander Impala (Jane Millman) and the alluring Sabina (Greg Wagland) use special technology to make him believe the hideous Malamine Queen looks like his beloved.
In the nick of time the real Sally comes to the rescue and by various means not only Bruce, but also the previous kidnapped 'mingler', Claus, and lost spacedog Olga Gibletova, are brought back to earth. It all ends happily for the Melamites, too, when the desperate inhabitants of an all-male planet come to their aid
Harries, who also directs, proves himself once again to be a master of mayhem, wittily stirring many of the familiar pantomime ingredients - double entendre, men in drag, costume animals - into his antidote-to-panto show, as well as a variety of songs and, of course, a bit of audience participation. This all makes for a very lively evening's entertainment, and the entire ensemble does an excellent job, most of them playing at least two parts as the plot bizarrely unfolds.
A missed opportunity, though, is the reappearance of dog-puppet Mrs Giblets as spacedog Olga Gibletova. Last year, Harries' comic canine creation stole the show with her hilarious doggy-dins song, so expectations were running high. Olga could easily have outwagged her, as yet, more famous cosmic cousin, K9, but she isn't even given a bone to chew here, let alone a big number. Sadly for us, Mrs Giblet's performance isn't so much a bark as a whimper.
An evening with such a fruity mix also needs someone to help egg it on, and I do feel that this year's show wobbles a bit. There's no doubt it has most of the essential ingredients, but as with panto, it could do with one of the characters acting as MC, presiding incapably over the proceedings and being a focus for audience sympathy. Harries himself performed this role splendidly last year.
The evening is full of goodies: it's a daft and witty script, enthusiastically performed, and the hot mince pies and mulled wine in the interval add to the festive atmosphere. Perhaps I'm just greedy - last year was such a feast! - but I can't help feeling that this year someone's forgotten to stir in the shiny sixpence.
Runs until 28th January
Reviewer: Jill Sharp