Eastern Angles back at their best
Cuckoo Teapot by Kate Griffin, Eastern Angles Theatre Company on Tour Coming up with an exciting and original new show was always the Eastern Angles best card.
COMING up with an exciting and original new show was always the Eastern Angles best card. That the Company's done it again is no small feat. Rehearsals went on through a period when potentially devastating and disgracefully ill-considered funding cuts were hanging over the company.
But they've come through the shadows, sense has prevailed, and Cuckoo Teapot, an engrossing tale with a dark secret lying at its core is on the road. A darned good night out, it is too.
The setting for Kate Griffin's play I'd come across as a boy. I had an aunt who had been born into a Midlands brewing family and she told me she remembered that farm workers from Suffolk and Norfolk would go on the trains to Burton-on-Trent to get winter work in the Maltings.
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Back in the days just before the First World War when the play is set, a quarter of country's beer was brewed at Burton.
The play uses local animosity in Burton towards the lads from Norfolk - 'Norkies' - as the social backcloth. When a young Norky, Joseph (played by Tim Bell) goes to Burton for work he has an address given him by his late brother.
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His arrival there begins the unravelling of a secret family tragedy from years back, full of intriguing twists and turns, which keep you guessing throughout. What events of the past have left are two bitter and secretive families that have completely the wrong idea of each other.
I won't spoil it here by revealing whether things are resolved, but around Charlie Cridlan's multi purpose set, embodying a barge, a home, a Midlands outside loo, a riverbank and a railway station, we have an all-action drama with chases, carriage and bike rides, a pub scene, a fight, and some songs.
Director Ivan Cutting, who's kept his perceptive, inventive head amidst all the Arts Council nonsense going on around him, has assembled a fine cast of five - Tim Bell and Bryony Harding as the two Romeo and Juliet youngsters (there are Shakespearean references and twists, by the way, and Jacqueline Redgewell, Helen Grady and Graham Howes as the older family members.
It seems as if there's a cast of a dozen there - not the least because of Graham Howes, who is completely different every time he comes in stage as another character. A class performance.
Eastern Angles best village tour shows tell a good story, paint pictures and debate issues. They explore our East Anglian identities and heritage - and entertain us. Cuckoo Teapot does all that.