Grinning from ear to ear for two hours solid is guaranteed to leave your jaw aching -– and if you don’t believe me get down to Peterborough’s Key Theatre this week to see The Mystery of St Finnigan’s Elbow.
The latest offering from Eastern Angles theatre company is a couple of hours of pure unadulterated fun - think St Trinian’s meets Father Ted - in the up close and personal Studio theatre.
It manages to reference Adolf Hitler, Al Capone and “Saint” Michael Finnigan - who grew whiskers on his chinnigan, and when they blew “innigan” (stay with me)saw it as an act of god, canoed across the Irish Sea and opened a convent school in Suffolk.
Which is where this tale begins in the 1930s and 15 (and three quarters) year old Alicia Trumpington takes her place there but soon discovers all is not as it seems when shady comings and goings end with the school’s old relic, the skeletal elbow of the saint which holds mythical healing powers, is stolen. Francesca Gosling exudes wide eyed innocence and naivete as the inquisitive Alicia.
She shares plenty of entertaining scenes with the excellent Samuel Martin in the guise of Billy Buttons, the gardener - or is he?
Alice Mottram is marvellously animated and visual as scatty sports mistress Sister Usain Bolt, batty LuLu (Alicia’s sister) and the demented, demonic school cook.
Greg Wagland steals plenty of scenes as the misunderstood school bully Lydia Bumole (with an accent over the e) and the too good to be true Rear Admiral Sir Benton Keane. His brief appearance as Cardinal Pecorino - with an unfathomable Italian accent - is not to be missed.
Star of the show for me, however, is the outstanding Joe Leat. His Reverend Mother is a real triumph of comic acting, and Mr Facsimile the Latin master, flouncing about, speaking gobbledegook which passes for Latin with cigarette holder lodged camply between his fingers is a joy. What a talent.
It is funny, downright silly at times, but the script is great, the characters well drawn and the wonderful direction ensures some order to the madness.
The finale, which I won’t spoil, is brilliant - particularly Samuel Martin’s two characters fighting each other - egged on by the cast and with the help of lookalike dummies. Superb.
The Mystery of St Finnigan’s Elbow runs until Saturday. Contact 01733 207239 or www.vivacity-peterborough.com for ticket details.