SYMMETRY TRANSFORMS CHARLEY’S AUNT
May 10, 2013
REVIEW: Sensational symmetry takes centre stage in Creative Cow’s
minimalist production of the genteel comedy Charley’s Aunt.
attention to detail with the set, costumes and choreography has resulted in an
elegant and stylish, yet fast-paced and contemporary version of the much-loved
Amanda Knott has focused on movement and surrounded the stage with ten
lampposts to create a backdrop that enables her to be more inventive with the
positioning of the cast as they race around the set at breakneck speed.
was applause from the audience, at the Pomegranate Theatre, in Chesterfield, at
the end of act two during which the cast engineer a swift set change while
keeping the action going. It was breathtaking.
in 1892 Brandon Thomas’ Charley’s Aunt is a story about a couple of posh Oxford
undergraduates – Jack and Charley – who plan to use the arrival of the aunt
from Brazil as an opportunity to propose to their loved ones Amy and Kitty.
she cancels at the last minute they persuade their friend Lord Fancourt
Babbersley (Babbs) to don a frock and do the honours.
ensues when the real aunt actually arrives. There’s no need to say any more.
energy and enthusiasm of the cast was admirable and all six performed together
like clockwork. Jonathan Parish as Jack and Mark Smedley as Charley were
great central cogs holding it all together and Harvey Robinson as the posh
bloke in a frock inevitably had all the best laughs but he deserved them as his
timing was impeccable.
Senior, who doubles as Kitty and the real aunt Donna Lucia, won the audience
over with her exquisite expressions and Kate Sharp, as both Ela and Amy,
personified the genteel aspect of the play.
hats off (or should that be hats off and on and off again) to Matthew
Townshend, who played love-struck Spettigue, Brassett, the butler, and Jack’s
father Sir Francis Chesney, as he was completely convincing as all three.
rapid costume changes he delivered as he bounced from one side of the stage to
the other had us spinning our heads faster than if we were at a Wimbledon
is definitely an adaptation of the classic worth watching and if this is the
sort of energy Creative Cow brings to a production I shall look forward to
seeing them again.
play is on at the Pomegranate Theatre, Chesterfield, until May 11. Go tohttp://www.chesterfieldtheatres.co.uk for
more details about tickets.
can also be seen at Buxton Opera House on May 31.
UK Theatre Network
Aunt at the Theatre Royal Windsor
By Clare Brotherwood
In its heyday, Brandon
Thomas’s comedy was a great success, running for a record-breaking 1,466
performances across four years in London’s West End.
But that was nearly 120
years ago. Nowadays it’s not so much a period piece as a jolly jape as two
Oxford undergraduates get into all sorts of bother just because they need a
chaperone for lunch with their intended young ladies. Oh, that manners and
etiquette were only half way towards that these days…
When an expected aunt
doesn’t turn up, Jack and Charley call upon one of their friends to dress up as
the aunt – but such is the farcical nature of this production that no less than
two men fall for her/his charms, despite ‘the aunt’ having a five o’clock
shadow and showing trousers and men’s shoes below his skirts.
But the small and
hardworking cast embrace the play with aplomb and enthusiasm, especially
Matthew Townshend who steals the show, first as the limping, tremulous
manservant Bassett; then as the respective and controlling uncle and guardian
of the two girls and, finally, as Jack’s kindly father. How he manages to look
and sound completely different on each occasion is a real tour de force.
It’s a stylised and
mostly stylish production, but on this occasion nothing more than a frothy bit
Belting along with wit and verve, this timely revival of the old Brandon
Thomas favourite Charley’s Aunt is just the tonic that theatre-goers need
during a cold, miserable summer.
Mixing this curious cocktail - one large measure of period drama, a dash
of genteel comedy of manners finished off with a big splash of knockabout farce
- is a fine art. Creative Cow Theatre Company clearly know how to serve it to
Using a simple but effective set this production staged in association
with Guildford’s Yvonne Arnaud Theatre whisks us back to late 19th century
Oxford where we find wealthy lovestruck undergraduates Jack Chesney and Charley
Wykeham scheming to woo the girls of their dreams.
A luncheon party seems a cracking idea but is unthinkable without a
chaperone. News that Charley’s long lost aunt is arriving from Brazil (“Where
the nuts come from”) seems to solve their problem. But disaster strikes
when the Aunt delays her travel plans. The desperate pair persuade reluctant
fellow student, Lord Fancourt Babberly - Babbs to his friends - to don a dress
and wig and act as a stand-in.
A superb cast featuring Harvey Robinson as Babbs, Jonathan Parish as
Jack and Mark Smedley as Charley make joyous work of the ensuing chaos.
Meanwhile Katherine Senior and Kate Sharp are hilarious as Kitty and Amy, the
innocent young ladies they have designs on. Both actresses double up with other
roles. Senior as the real Aunt is haughtily imperious and astonished to
discover that a cigar-smoking imposter has borrowed her identity. While
Sharp plays Ela Delahay, a one-time sweetheart of Fancourt Babberly, as
disarmingly puzzled to find herself strangely attracted to Charley’s distinctly
masculine bogus aunt.
Adding to the wonderful mixture of confusion and coincidence are Jack’s
father Sir Francis Chesney and Amy’s guardian the loathsome Mr Spettigue.
Before long both men - played by Matthew Townshend - are vying for the
attentions of Babbs believing him to be an exotic millionaire widow. Townshend
does a fine job switching seamlessly between roles using body language and
slight changes of costume to great affect. He also appears as the student’s
long-suffering but wiley man-servant Brassett.
Director Amanda Knott has done a fine job distilling the timeless
physical comedy of this boisterous romp into a light-hearted drama that speaks
fluently to a 21st century audience.
Creative Cow’s production of Charley’s Aunt
completes its two day run at Lighthouse, Poole with two performances today
(Thursday May 16) a 2.30pm matinee and and 8.00pm performance this evening.
Book now by calling 0844 406 8666 or visitwww.lighthousepoole.co.uk
Posted on: May 16, 2013
By: Jeremy Miles