Ipswich is enjoying a surfeit of cracking shows this Christmas. The New Wolsey’s yearly Rock ‘n’ Roll panto is predictably excellent, but so too is The Fenland Screamers and Other Boggy Tales, Eastern Angles’ winter offering, which runs at the company’s Ipswich home before touring to Woodbridge and Peterborough.
Written and directed by Pat Whymark and Julian Harries, it’s a comedy horror set in 1930, in a remote mansion on the Cambridgeshire Fens: four guests, one mysterious host, an army of flesh-devouring zombies outside, and a faithful dog called Buttocks. And three interwoven stories of overseas adventure and derring-do told by the unfortunate dinner guests as they await their salvation.
It is unashamedly, sprawlingly silly, Python-esque even, and very funny too. South American tribes worshipping Gary Barlow. Himalayan sheep farmers with wandering accents. Transylvanian nuns with rampant libidos. You never know what’s coming next.
Whymark and Harries’ direction is as crazy as their writing. Brisk, boisterous, littered with silly songs, and stuffed full of inventive ideas and meta asides. At over two hours long, it probably overstays its welcome a touch, but it’s hard to begrudge its length when it bubbles with such spirit.
The five strong cast are all good, but particularly fun are Geri Allen as a haughty fashionista – self-confessedly channelling Olivia Colman, and channelling her very well – and James Macnaughton as Cyril Flippersby, an upright ex-fighter pilot who engineers the show’s finest moment when he gets the audience to collectively call his stupidly named spaniel.