Review- Stoat Hall

Stoat Hall – by Pat Wymark and Julian Harries – Eastern Angles at Sir John Mills and Seckford Theatre till Jan 28th

If you want a rollicking, irreverent, very funny alternative to the traditional panto look no further than Eastern Angles new Christmas show. Written by the incomparable team of Pat Wymark and Julian Harries, this is a tongue- in- cheek look at Tudor times – with a nod to Wolf Hall and more than passing inspiration from Black Adder.

Eastern Angles Christmas productions can often be very hit and miss – but always work best when written by founder members Wymark and Harries – and this one is a cracker.

The (very loose) story line  involves the visit to Sir Roger De Palfreys’ crumbling pile by Henry VIII himself – and a  plot to assassinate the King and put Sir Roger, another nephew  of Richard III, on the throne.

There are plotters in the basement who wear stoats on their heads, a granny who speaks in Chauceresque language, a foolish Fool, two ugly daughters, a batty cook and overseeing all Sir De Palfrey himself played with marvellous aplomb by old hand Richard Mainwairing. The rest of the cast of five play all the other parts and the music with gusto – throwing themselves into whatever is asked of them – including a dizzying number of costume changes  executed in a space the size of a broom cupboard.

And it is genuinely funny – with the gags coming thick and fast and some very clever writing.

The first half especially flows along with plenty of action and song, a bit of Shakespeare and a lot of double entendres. The second half loses its way a little bit and maybe could have done with some editing, as there are maybe more plot twists and turns than are really needed.

However – there’s plenty to keep you smiling – and Goblets the Dog is the icing on the cake.

Amongst a myriad of characters – including the appearance of Black Shuck – Matt Jopling makes the most of his part as both Fools, Patrick Neyman is an evil Alchemist and a Black Adderish King Henry as well as Roger’s daughter Hedwig, Geri Allen is both Roger’s wife and his other daughter and Violet Patton-Ryder is Granny and Cook.

Directed by Pat Whymark who also wrote all the music,  this is a jolly, fun evening that will only get slicker as the production gets into its stride.

Thoroughly recommended.

Suzanne Hawkes

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