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Holy Mackerel review at Sir John Mills Theatre, Ipswich – ‘confused’

Louise Callaghan, Christian Edwards and Mabel Clements in Holy Mackerel at Sir John Mills Theatre, Ipswich. Photo: Mike Kwasniak Louise Callaghan, Christian Edwards and Mabel Clements in Holy Mackerel at Sir John Mills Theatre, Ipswich. Photo: Mike Kwasniak

A Christmas show without a dame in sight should make for a refreshing change, and certainly Eastern Angles has a long history of offering something that is imaginative and different, but somehow all the flair and invention in this year’s offering sadly doesn’t add up to the sum of its parts.

This year, the Suffolk-based touring company has teamed up with their opposite number in Cornwall, Shanty Theatre Company, to tell the story of the 1896 Newlyn Fishing Riots. But, despite plenty of good ideas, it all comes across as rather confused.

The story mixes timelines so the audience doesn’t know where it is. Most of the narrative is in Victorian Cornwall, as Suffolk fishermen defy the local Methodists and fish Cornish waters on a Sunday. As the riots break out, the police are called and we suddenly get an extended scene with a cover band for The Police.

Another Victorian sequence has a James Bond-style command centre and jokes about low alcohol lager. It quickly becomes wearing. The scenery, designed by Verity Quinn, is imaginative and does a great job of giving the show a sense of time and place, which is not echoed by the script or the staging.

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Verdict
An opportunity for a different kind of Christmas show with nice ideas flounders because it doesn’t know what it wants to be: a comic, historical tale or a piece of Christmas fun
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