The knack of delivering a punchline or visual gag with unadulterated glee as if it is the first time it has ever been performed is a rare thing indeed. Although this trait wavers in the second act, which feels just a little over-stuffed with plot tangents, this latest festive offering from the creative minds of Julian Harries and Pat Whymark is largely fresh, madcap comedy gold.
Carry On, Ealing, Holmes, Christie (naturally) and the kitchen sink are thrown into the mix to provide the framework for a dashed silly tale about growth serum experiments and underhand tactics at the village vegetable show. Between them the five actor/musicians take on some 20 roles and half a dozen instruments, Whymark’s folksy compositions quaint and kitsch in equal measure.
Harries, primarily as stiff-upper-lip twerp Major Fitzall, inhabits his characters with infectious zeal. The comedic pace and punning is relentless and he and his cast prove equal to the challenge. Samuel Martin is especially likeable as camp, flouncy, under-achieving son Fenton Fitzall, while Emma Finlay’s old crone Mad Meg - a dream role for an accomplished caricaturist - and Patrick Marlowe as Miss Murgatroyd also make for compulsive viewing.
If there’s a criticism - and it’s a picky one - it’s that the character bestowed on Fenton’s gung-ho sister Georgina (Deborah Hewitt) is rather lacking in idiocy. Hewitt possesses a fine singing voice, but in a show otherwise packed with cracking nonsense, she could have done with a few more opportunities to make an exhibition of herself.