Crampons of Fear, eastern Angles

Crampons of Fear: Julian Harries Eastern Angles, Sir John Mills Theatre, Ipswich until January 19; Seckford Theatre, Woodbridge. January 22 - 27

Ivan Howlett

Crampons of Fear: Julian Harries

Eastern Angles, Sir John Mills Theatre, Ipswich until January 19; Seckford Theatre, Woodbridge. January 22 - 27

WHAT you know about a Julian Harries Christmas Show - and he's written 10 for the Eastern Angles Theatre Company - is that it's likely to be a non-stop series of escapades that sends up a movie genre. This time the spotlight falls on the British spy-movie of the Thirties, with Alfred's Hitchcock's The Thirty Nine Steps in the front line.


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The show opens with the Pathe News theme complete with cockerel. Europe is heading towards war, and some blackguardly foreign villains would like to help it happen more quickly. But then it's over to the dinner-jacketed BBC, which steps in to send a team of its variety stars on a European tour.

It's that team of stars played by five actors - Tracy Elster, Elizabeth Park, Simon Nock, Tom Peters and Greg Wagland (in his eighth Eastern Angles Christmas Show) - who find themselves entangled in full-speed misadventures that take them to Venice, to the Alps, the face of Big Ben and to the London Palladium.

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It's a saga of disguises and secret passwords, and endless schemes to capture information vital to Britain. The baddies - the same five actors, of course - are led by Baron von Heüe (who?), a master of disguise whose mother didn't even know him. But then she didn't know his father either.

Our stars include a ventriloquist and his alter ego Raffles, a clairvoyant and a variety duo who turn out to be heroes. They're the Blisses, who, though estranged, could just get it together again if they can overcome a fear of heights when mountain climbing, can refuse to give up passwords when under threat of death, can manage not to fall off Big Ben, and can avoid being blown up .

The actors are all musicians, so we have lots of clever Pat Whymark songs and silly things for the audience to join in and do. The ingenious stage devices include a model ski lift, a marauding seaplane, and a gondola scene.

It's all great fun with lots of film references thrown in. There's the puppet taking over the vent as in Dead of Night, and a fleeting nod in the Venice scene towards the Nicholas Roeg thriller Don't Look Now. MacGuffin, the term Alfred Hitchcock used to describe movie plot devices that move things on, is used as a character's name.

Ivan Howlett

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