Edinburgh Fringe 2014
Scandal, intrigue, mystery and jolly japes all washed down with lashings of the eponymous liquid
That esteemed broadsheet, The Guardian announced a few years back that Enid Blyton was being brought up to date, with cream buns and lashings of ginger beer being replaced by pizzas and mobile phones. Boo, hiss.
Fortunately this news doesn’t seem to have reached, Herrick Theatre. Hurrah! They’re a community group based in the wilds of Leicestershire, and their thoroughly amusing production of Lashings of Ginger Beer contains enough potted meat sandwiches, cakes, biscuits, knitted pork pies and, of course, gallons of the eponymous beverage, to keep even the most dedicated Enid Blyton fan happy.
Whilst I was more of a Secret Seven chap myself, I still dipped into the doings of the Famous Five, around whom this jolly spoof has been based. Three daring children and their loyal (toy) dog are deep into the long summer hols that English boarding schools seem to enjoy, leaving them loads of time for really long bike rides and adventures. But what’s this? The bunting for the village fete has gone missing, as have a number of other items vital to the smooth running of rural Middle England, like knitting needles and china tea services (so essential for those lovely country cream teas). And what’s happened to all the apples this year? The crop has vanished, leaving the local cider brewer scratching his head and the passing travellers’ horses short of sweet treats. And who and what are Mr Dustry and his mother, newly arrived from America, up to with their ideas about globalisation? What secret is Ms Pollock, the Vicar’s new housekeeper, concealing? Can our Terrific Trio unravel the mystery in time to save the village fete from a fate worse than death – cancellation by the Vicar?
All gripping stuff, don’t you agree? Rest assured, our Terrific Trio gradually unravel the knitting to reveal the true ogres in their midst and, yes, the village fete gets saved, just in time for a rousing finale and a celebratory cream bun.
With a smattering of very amusing songs (mature “ladies” trying to butter up the vicar with baking and advice on what to do with a pair of apples) plus a script that had enough double entendre and innuendo to amuse the adults whilst floating over the heads of the youngsters, this proved to be a jolly jape – just what it was supposed to be.
In many ways this show epitomises the spirit of the Fringe. Get a group together, write something, light, short and witty, bung in a few good songs and then see if you can persuade people to come along. There were a few wobbly bits in the middle when things went bump when they shouldn’t and vice versa, but a strong beginning, a rousing finale and a very talented Vicar keeping the cast together ensured that this was forty minutes of innocent fun. The simple set of trunks and boxes was adapted to act as a railway carriage, factory, store room, Vicarage and just about everything else. Props were simple, but effective. Costumes were bright and very convincing, setting the tone and augmenting the almost universally creditable characterisation. And the musicians did a great job keeping everyone in the right key.
Well worth a visit. And the venue does great cream buns and there’s lashings of ginger beer on tap!