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Page last updated at 10:32 GMT, Tuesday, 6 July 2010 11:32 UK
Review: Eastern Angles' Bentwaters Roads on the airbase

By Wilf Arasaratnam
Resident of Ipswich

Nadia Morgan in Eastern Angles' Bentwaters Roads
Nadia Morgan anchors the production playing Charlie Middleton

Never in a million years would I have thought I would be seeing theatre at Bentwaters!

However, after the trek to Rendlesham and crossing the enormous ex-RAF/US Air Force base of Bentwaters, I finally reached the Hush House where the innovative Eastern Angles company was showing its latest production called Bentwaters Roads.

The Hush House was a hangar used to test aircraft engines when Bentwaters was in active service and consequently the acoustic qualities of this building make it an unique performance space.

As the hangar doors were closed and the performance began, the building took on an other-worldly quality.

Tony Ramsay, the playwright, indulges us in time-travel as he weaves together four time periods subtly: Today's Suffolk, Cold War Suffolk, Medieval Suffolk and Pagan Times in the theatrical equivalent of an archaeological dig.

This is done by the various characters of these time periods entering through the long tunnel which dominates the Hush House, whilst the current day characters appear through more conventional stage entrances.

Eastern Angles' Bentwaters Roads
Caitlin Thorburn plays Cunovinda in the pagan scenes

Death and identity

Charlie Middleton's return to Suffolk after the death of her mother forms the main plot of the play and throughout the it Charlie is forced to question her past and her identity.

Nadia Morgan, who plays Charlie, strongly anchors this production with her powerful performance.

The cast are given some exceptionally amusing and witty lines and quite a few guffaws were heard when Pamela Buchner's Josephine chided Charlie that ".. if you're going to be a lesbian at least be a smart one!"

Normally, the Eastern Angles are used to overcoming the challenges of their petite home, the Sir John Mills Theatre in Ipswich, with aplomb and the opportunities afforded by the Hush House have not been squandered either.

The use of projection on to the wall by the tunnel brings the audience into the minds of the characters and the subtle lighting evokes different time periods effectively.

The larger set has been effectively used to create a sense of timelessness.

Eastern Angles' Bentwaters Roads
Dan Copeland as Father Tawney and Sally Anne Burnett as Mrs Middleton

We have metallic trees suggesting the nearby Rendlesham Forest and troughs of water implying nearby brooks.

During Act II, the drama is weaved together and the tempo of the play picks up a pace.

Some of the actors had the challenge of playing many different characters and I was particularly impressed with Alexander D'Andrea's ability to play an accent-perfect US pilot.

In another scene, he had the appropriate rural burr as a medieval stonemason.

As the play concludes, we are given a satisfying climax that unifies all the time-travel strands and makes us question family relationships, secrets and our local surroundings.

Whilst to many, a play within an aircraft hangar may smack of gimmickry, Eastern Angles have impressed me with this satisfying piece of local theatre that fosters both a sense of curiosity as well as informing me of my home county.

Bentwaters Roads runs 1-18 July 2010 at the Hush House, Bentwaters Airbase, Rendlesham. Visit Eastern Angles for full details.

This review was a voluntary contribution to the BBC website. If you're interesting in writing a review in return for free tickets to an event, write to us suffolk@bbc.co.uk here.

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