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Round the Twist (Eastern Angles tour – Ipswich, Sir John Mills Theatre)

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
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In case you didn’t already know it, 2012 is Charles Dickens' birth bicentenary year. As it’s Christmas time, there are a number of (more or less) straightforward adaptations of A Christmas Carol in particular doing the rounds.

And, of course, there’s Round the Twist. Eastern Angles’ seasonal shows have built up a tradition of spoof dramatisations of classic novels, Mansfield Park and Ride for one. This new show by Brendan Murray is a worthy successor, with characters loosely – very loosely – based on Dickens’ own creations swirling around in a plot which has bits of Great Expectations and Nicholas Nickleby jostling with The Old Curiosity Shop and even .

It’s surprising what director Ivan Cutting and designer Ian Teague can do with an acting area not much bigger than a living-room. Weird and wondrous things dangle from above, there’s even an upper stage level crouching above a piano – Richard Taylor’s music is particularly tuneful and has a couple of effective numbers. There are a neat pair of running jokes, one concerning young Oliver Nicklefield’s “testimonials” (work that out for yourselves) and the other (cue audience participation) over Foggerty’s name.

Four of the hard-working cast of five each assume many roles, Joel Sams is our upright dashing young hero, more or less bound to end up with Gabrielle Douglas’ Little Mell; Douglas also has great fun with Dorabella. That’s Dorabella number one, by the way, for Mrs Crumbles (Sally Ann Burnett) also covets – and on occasion plays – the part as well as being down-to-earth Foggerty, all mobcap and sensible apron.

Then there’s the villainous Obadiah Snoop, a serpentine and oleaginous Zach Lee. Greg Wagland rushes around with a bewildering succession of quick costumes changes as thespian Mr Crumbles, convict Magpie, a dubious Scot called McCaber and even Miss Haversack herself. At one point in the second half a horse race at Newmarket takes centre stage; it's cleverly done – but you have to go to see the show to find out how.


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