The Tinder Box (Ipswich – tour)

Pat Whymark and Julian Harries continue their established Common Ground Theatre Company tradition, adapting a classic fairy or folk tale for the stage and touring it across East Anglia.

This successor to last year's The Canterville Ghost is based on Hans Christian Andersen's The Tinder Box. The plot revolves around a poor soldier (played by Charles Davies) returning from war. He meets a witch who asks him to retrieve a magical tinder box which is guarded by three magical dogs inside a hollow tree.

Charles Davies (with friends)
Charles Davies (with friends)
© Mike Kwasniak Photography 2014

However, rather than handing over the box, he decides to take the tinder box and the precious coins inside it and go to a nearby kingdom where there is a myth that a poor soldier will be the one to marry the princess who is locked in a tower.

In addition to Davies, who only plays the Soldier, the ensemble cast of Tracy Elster, Lorna Garside and Julian Harries play a host of characters. Garside's talent has developed from her performance last year in The Canterville Ghost; she adeptly takes on Little Hans, the Princess and an executioner.

Among the parts which Elster plays, the highlight is the Witch. Similarly, Harries is a delight, notably when portraying a French dog who embodies the spirit of Jean-Paul Gaultier. As well as acting, he also acts as a puppet master for a variety of other characters in the story.

As with last year's The Canterville Ghost, the sophistication of the lighting and set design far exceed popular expectations for a small community company. The transitions between the actors and the puppets are smooth and intelligent.

This production has built on the success of previous ones. Perhaps it's partly down to the use of the source material with stronger roots. It definitely would appeal to the aged six and above audience which it targets. This is also reflected in the first act sight-gags with gentle humour – not not innuendo-laden yet genuinely funny.

The excellent script kept the whole audience entertained all the way through. I saw it in a small hall and it worked – thus proving that high-quality theatre can be brought to delight new audiences without having the audiences having to travel to larger theatres some distance away.

The Tinder Box plays at the Sir John Mills Theatre, Ipswich until 10 January.