GILLS AROUND THE GREEN
Eastern Angles at the Sir John Mills Theatre, Ipswich
Maybe the front row wasn't such a good idea. We chased the horse round the stage, wielded an inflatable hammer, as well as barking like a fox and being stung by a jellyfish. Didn't dare take out the notebook, either, so I hope I've got this about right ...
Gills Around The Green is the twelfth show that Julian Harries and Pat Whymark have penned for the cosy John Mills Theatre. Eastern Angles have given us grade 1 daftness in the past, but this has to be the weirdest and the wackiest yet.
The crazy eco-fable started bizarre – Aqua Boy vs the evil Piscator played out in his bath-tub – and got more and more surreal with every new scene.
Ready meals, plastic pollution, hunting, over-fishing and the future of the planet in general and Ipswich in particular – all these were checked along the way, in a scenario of inspired silliness.
Some ideas worked better than others – maybe this varies from audience to audience – but the costumes and the characters changed so frequently there was no chance of critical ennui. Amongst the more memorable notions: the cows – horned hats, pink udder handbags, black and white gowns – discussing the judging at the cattle show, and the Hairy Growlers [unevolved humans] with their cod-Shakespearean dialogue.
Harries himself grasped each preposterous persona with manic enthusiasm, from mad Professor Grimsby to Jasper, King of Eden. And, like his fellow actors, he gladly turned a hand to playing an impressive range of musical instruments.
He was joined on this mad journey through Thorpeness and a thousand fish jokes by Nicholas Agnew as Vernon Spratt [aka Aqua Boy], Kai Simmons as his mother and the sinister Bernard, Rose van Hooff as a Mermaid, Leda and Grimkin, and Holly Ashton as the posh Tory who's lost in the snow and foolishly falls in with Vernon.
Wonderful to see the irrepressible Mrs Giblets [canine superstar] back on the boards as a hypnotic hound.
The set looked like something left over from a 50s TV science fiction series, and the props showed all the inventive economy we've come to expect: the phone box, the fish tank, the bikes, the snow-bound car, all conjured up from next to nothing.
Helped of course, by the sell-out audience's willingness to use its fevered imagination, and the enthusiasm and energy of this talented company.
photographer - Mike Kwasniak