Ipswich: Cliffhangers guaranteed in Eastern Angles’ latest literary spoof
- Credit: Archant
Heaths, all sort of cliffs, a ghost, a mystery, a wedding in danger, even some hang-gliding; welcome to Eastern Angles Christmas show The Brontes of Dunwich Heath (& Cliff).
It’s a classic barmy story that imagines the famous Bronte novel characters Mad Cath and Plain Jane lived around here and maybe inspired the Bronte’s up there.
Dunwich is on its uppers because of the rotten boroughs so the two girls resign themselves to going out to earn an income. Jane goes off to become a governess in Colchester for a man called Rochester while Cath sets out to investigate some ghostly goings on in the town and the two tales become intertwined.
The five-strong cast, who play about 15 different characters between them, were in the final week of rehearsals when I stopped by Ipswich’s Sir John Mills Theatre, where the show runs until January 11.
“It’s kind of nervous because it’s getting to the point where you can’t do anything about it,” laughs writer and director Ivan Cutting. “It gets to that point where it just needs an audience because you’ve heard the jokes so many times, we’re all sitting around watching, not laughing at all.”
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“We’ve got the Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre elements sort of jammed together into a plot. We’ve all the ingredients, the wedding, the Mrs Rochesters, the fire, we also squeeze in a trip to Barbados. We’ve got some great songs in it, some hovellers, or hovelliers as they prefer to be called, the beach men who used to salvage stuff from the ships.”
“There’s never a dull moment,” laughs Cameron Johnson, playing both villain with a heart Sir Fred and the girls’ big, crazy but warm and homely West Indian mother figure Mrs Rochester.
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“Mrs Rochester is a spectacular woman I assure you,” he laughs again. “It’s a big costume.”
When not in rehearsals, the actor, who once lived in Peterborough, where the show runs from January 28-February 1, has been auditioning for the role of Simba’s dad Mufasa in The Lion King in London.
“I had my fourth round audition for that a couple of days ago. The final round of auditions are in a couple of weeks and rehearsals would start in March. So that’s been pretty crazy.”
So, one week a dress...
“The next week a prosthetic lion head,” he laughs. “It’s been hard coming from this, playing a villain and essentially a dame then going in to play a sort of grounded father figure - it’s hard to go into a different rehearsal room and not have a bit of residual Mrs Rochester present.”
Sophie Reid, playing adventure seeking Cathy, not to be confused with Catherine, as they do daily, is having a ball.
“It’s a very, very fun role. I was very excited when I got told about the audition... my agency just said ‘basically, you just have to be Kate Bush... weird, big hair’; ‘brilliant’ I thought ‘don’t have to act, great’,” she laughs.
She spends most of the time running around, not really caring about anybody apart from her sister as long as she doing something exciting which includes...
“I can’t give away plot points can I? One little spoiler I’ll give, Cathy seems to invent hang-gliding in the 19th Century.”
It’s one of many incongruities; even though the show’s supposed to be a period piece, being Christmas and Eastern Angles belief is suspended. Expect post offices appearing early, trains not coaches...
“I’ve never been in a show like this; I’ve done things where I’ve played multi-role but never done multi-role, multi-instrument, multi-accent, multi-everything plus I’ve just found out there isn’t anyone backstage to help you get into all these costumes and there’s one that’s really hard for me to get into,” laughs Sophie.
“People want to see the struggles, the quick changes, they want to say ‘didn’t she just come on as a post-woman, now she’s a ghost, oh...’
Sounds like great family fun.
“Don’t worry about finding an excuse to take the kids to see the show,” smiles Ivan. “Come for yourself.”
The Brontes of Dunwich Heath (& Cliff) runs at Ipswich’s Sir John Mills Theatre, Gatacre Road, to January 11; Woodbridge’s Seckford Theatre, Burkitt Road, January 14-25 and Peterborough’s Key Theatre, Embankment Road, January 28-February 1.