Writer: Brandon Thomas
Director: Amanda Knott
Reviewer: Jamie Gaskin
In a theatre world studded with technical innovation it’s a brave move to stage something as traditional as Charley’s Aunt. However you perform it, the script of this Victorian farce is bound to show its age. But the cartoonesque approach of director Amanda Knot, with some delicious over the top acting to send itself up, proves that this 1892 play can still be great fun.
Amanda is a founding member of Creative Cow who are touring with this show delivered in association with Guildford’s Yvonne Arnaud Theatre. Her clever high-speed farce routines are superbly and minutely choreographed doubtless owing much, I’m sure, to her roots in The Royal Ballet.
There are plenty of misunderstandings and deliberate conspiracy to keep us all amused and to enable the cast’s often tongue-in-cheek style to flourish. Matthew Townshend probably had more fun than most switching between the ubiquitous servant Brassett and both the older gents initially fooled into thinking that Lord Fancourt Babberley (Harvey Robinson) is a rich widow – Charley’s Aunt. Full marks for not getting his limp wrong with all the costume changes.
Jack Chesney (Jonathan Parish) and Charley Wykeham (Mark Smedley) rise admirably to the challenge of making two upper-class-twits hopelessly in love both believable and sympathetic. We were won over by the crisp mannered styles of the objects of their affections Kitty (Katherine Senior) and Amy (Kate Sharp). Their movements were marvellous and their outrageous hair-bows an inspiration. Kate takes much care to create a new persona when she doubles as Ela Delahay, yet another lovelorn soul littering the stage.
Of course Charley has two aunts. Firstly his old pal Lord Fancourt Babberley a man given to dressing up as a woman in the interests of amateur dramatics. A demanding rôle on the tonsils with all the voice changes which Robinson met admirably. He also brought a lightness of touch to ensure the farce elements, in which he often featured, were moderated and not always played at full-throttle.
And Senior’s second rôle as the real aunt, Donna Lucia D’Alvadorez, gave her a chance to play the most normal character with the right amount of poise and elegance needed balance the buffoonery of the other members of the cast. The basic set is simple but effective while scene changes by cast in mid-flow are nothing new, the precision and elegance of the creation of the scene for Act Three clearly delighted the audience.
A tasty treat and well worth a visit.