Review: Justin and the Argonauts, by Pat Whymark and Julian Harries, Common Ground Theatre Company, Seckford Theatre, Woodbridge, New Wolsey Studio, Ipswich and touring until January 9 2016

Julian Harries as Heracles, Lorna Garside as Atalanta, Joe Leat as Orpheus and Matt Jopling as Justi

Julian Harries as Heracles, Lorna Garside as Atalanta, Joe Leat as Orpheus and Matt Jopling as Justin in Justin and the Argonauts, by Pat Whymark and Julian Harries, Common Ground Theatre Comopany's Christmas Show - Credit: Archant

A feast of seasonal silliness from Pat Whymark and Julian Harries has been part of Suffolk’s theatrical tradition since the early ‘90s. This Christmas is no exception and the pair have produced a goody bag of surreal fun which taps into well-known episodes from Greek mythology.

Alice Mottram as Acrustes, Julian Harries as Zeus and Matt Jopling as Justin in Justin and the Argon

Alice Mottram as Acrustes, Julian Harries as Zeus and Matt Jopling as Justin in Justin and the Argonauts, by Pat Whymark and Julian Harries, Common Ground Theatre Comopany's Christmas Show - Credit: Archant

The pair started off working in collaboration with Eastern Angles but now provide their own special brand of inspired lunacy for their own company, Common Ground.

Pat and Julian have always been very adept at tapping into a collective consciousness and coming up with shows that celebrate historic events and the genre films which look to re-tell those same stories for modern audiences.

Themes for recent shows have included Hammer Horror (Bats Over Bleedham Market), 1950s science fiction B movies (The Day The Earth Wobbled A Bit), Hitchcockian thrillers (Dial M For Murgatroyd), and smuggling tales (Dubloon).

As a result of their love for classic film, Justin and the Argonauts (a simply stunning title) bears more than a passing resemblance to both The Time Bandits and the original Clash of the Titans as well as those 1960s sword and sandals epics with Steve Reeves and Victor Mature.

Lorna Garside as Atalanta, Matt Jopling as Justin and Joe Leat as Orpheus in Justin and the Argonau

Lorna Garside as Atalanta, Matt Jopling as Justin and Joe Leat as Orpheus in Justin and the Argonauts, by Pat Whymark and Julian Harries, Common Ground Theatre Comopany's Christmas Show - Credit: Archant


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The evening opens with an out of work actor and his extended family on holiday in the Greek Islands when the youthful Justin finds himself transported back into antiquity. The only problem is that all the people he meets in this new world look like his extended family.

Over the past couple of years, Pat and Julian have gathered around them a repertory company of talented young actors who share their quirky sense of humour and are very accomplished at changing character with a quick switch of a hat or the removal of a cloak.

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While Julian has great fun as Zeus, stroking his Kraken, and the South African (?) Greek hero Heracles, he is given great support from Joe Leat as an Irish centaur and a fey Orpheus, the adaptable Alice Mottram as Zeus’ wife Hera and the duplicitous Acrustes while Lorna Garside is the war-like amazon Atalanta and the flesh-eating Medea. The newcomer to the company is Matt Jopling who holds the madness together as the narrator and main character Justin.

While other companies throw increasing amounts of money at their Christmas shows this is a production which revels in being a show on a budget. The audience is in on the joke and happily join in with a host of witty theatrical conceits to transport the cast from quest to quest.

This is a show which invites the audience to be part of the action and relishes in the puns, bad jokes and the flights of fancy which are part and parcel of a Whymark and Harries creation.

The first night performance had plenty of energy but lacked the tightness and the focus that will inevitably snap into place as the performers get comfortable with the show.

A glorious piece of Christmas fun that effortlessly conjures up the historical epics that have long been a staple of Christmas television.

Andrew Clarke

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