As I joined the audience of Winter Tails III on Sunday, in the attic room of Oakes Barn in Bury St Edmunds, I really didn’t know what to expect.
Being more used to stage plays in a theatre, there is an increased sense of the unknown about going to see a play above a pub. However, right from the opening scene, Winter Tails III - Revenge of the Storyteller had me hooked.
Set against an eclectic backdrop of beautiful fabrics and ‘Poundland props’, the play tells the story of aspiring actors performing a series of ancient animal tales under the direction of the Storyteller, a wonderfully exaggerated thespian character played by Sue Harrington-Spier. The Storyteller also happens to be the mother-in-law of one of the ‘Humble Players’, whose marriage to her daughter has broken down, and takes great pleasure in seeking somewhat playful matriarchal revenge on stage.
The ‘Humble Players’, performed by AJ Deane and Ben Young, juggle props and mime to capture their animal roles, along with side-glances and laughter-inducing lines that bring to life their own backstories.
Young, as the estranged son-in-law, responds with perfect comedic fall-guy reactions to his mother-in-law.
And Deane’s character is certainly not worry-free, as he discovers his former love interest, ex Reality TV Star Brittany (played by Sarah Lockhart), is expecting a baby and he is keen to know if he is the father. Deane is a master of facial expressions and furtive glances, keeping the tone light. Meanwhile the costume changes – or rather the animal hat swaps – keep the laughs aplenty.
As heavily pregnant Brittany, accessorised with fairy wings and fluffy unicorn slippers, Lochhart provides the vocal sound effects to accompany the animal tales. Her Essex inspired accent adds great comic effect.
Produced by the Quirkhouse Theatre Company, the dialogue throughout Winter Tales III is very cleverly crafted, as are the threads that weave between the characters. Writer and Producer Jackie Carreira describes it an ‘extremely silly alternative to Panto’.
It is indeed. And like any good Panto, it also has its very own put-upon character, poor Stage Hand Jo, played by Joanna Hagan-Young, who is regularly sent off stage when all she wants is to is act.
From the very first scene, Hagan-Young truly sparkles in a role that reminds me of Cinderella. But where Cinderella seeks Prince Charming, Jo’s dream is to be given a chance to shine in the spotlight.
Will she find her own place between the ‘Humble Players’? And what will happen to the “Humble Players’? Will the Storyteller get her revenge and who is the father of Brittany’s baby? I recommend that you join the audience, enjoy the show and see what happens. Whether you’re young, old or somewhere in the middle, if you love to laugh, you won’t be disappointed.