Reviewed by Zoey Caldwell
Awful Auntie has been adapted for stage by the Birmingham Stage Company, from the extremely popular novel by David Walliams.
The story is set in Saxby Hall in the 1930’s. It follows Stella Saxby (Georgina Leondas) journey to save Saxby Hall and herself from her extremely Awful Auntie Alberta (Timothy Speyer) and Albertas’ Bavarian owl, Wagner.
Following the tragic car accident that claimed her parents Stella finds herself bandaged from neck to toe, locked in a room and unwittingly at the mercy of her Aunt. Alberta is played fantastically by Timothy Speyer. Alberta is truly disgusting, and Stella is not convinced that what her Auntie Wantie is telling her is the total truth. So, we are transported through Saxby Hall as she tries to escape.
Keeping Saxby Hall going is Gibbon – too old and extremely senile but part of the interior of Saxby Hall. Gibbon (Richard James) is sure to almost steal the show night after night with his antics. Lawn mowing the carpet and burning the slippers are just a couple of his faux pars. He certainly was a favourite with my children, and if truthful myself. It is silly, sometimes slapstick comedy but he made us all laugh out loud! Richard James plays him perfectly and his timing are spot on.
Soon after Stella escapes the bedroom prison, she finds herself locked away in the coal cellar. For years Stella has believed that Saxby Hall is haunted, her fears turn to friendship with Soot (Ashley Cousins) a chimney sweep cockney ghost. My first thoughts of Soot were he sounds exactly like Michael Crawford in Some Mothers Do ‘ave ‘em, there the similarities end though. Soot turns out to be an excellent ally to Stella as they set to prove that Alberta, poisoned her parents before the tragic accident and that maybe Stella is due an awful ending if Alberta has anything to do with it.
The first burst for freedom is scuppered – very cleverly portrayed! The second seems to be going well when a call to the police results in a rather eccentric police detective appears at Saxby Hall from Scotland Yard. As the interrogation unfolds it becomes clear that everything is not how it should be. Stella continues to be in trouble with Alberta and things go from bad to worse!
I am not going to go any further into the story, but it becomes truly shocking for Stella. A car chase on stage in a vintage Rolls Royce and motorcycle. Cracking ice and freezing water.
Watch out for the revenge scene it is classic slapstick comedy and certainly received the most laughs of the production. Toilet humour is always a hit with my boys and it seems that quite a lot of the audience too!
Awful Auntie is thoroughly entertaining for the family. The actors/actresses pulled off a brilliant performance with warmth and friendship between Stella and Soot and truly classic comedy values thrown in, in abundance with Gibbon and as it pains me to say the FANTASTIC Awful auntie Alberta. The foyer after the production was buzzing with happy, smiling children. Families leaving together and laughing and discussing what they had just watched.
Milton Keynes theatre is very modern and is maintained brilliantly. The staff are so warm and friendly. The appearance of the theatre and it is staff is fantastic. The theatre has its own bars and an eatery but if you didn’t want to use those, there are several restaurants and bars surrounding it. As well as paid parking around the theatre area there is a multi-storey carpark that allows up to 3 hours free parking.
I would recommend Awful Auntie wholeheartedly. It is a family friendly show that is easy viewing. The humour is not exclusively for either adults or children, so everybody should get a laugh or 6. I would not end this review without mentioning the outstanding set and puppetry. True masters in what they do. The set is designed that you can get an inside look of more than just one room in Saxby. Artistic and set changes are flawless. The whole production team deserve every positive review going. Well done to all.
Tickets cost from £23.50 to £26.50 (plus £2.85 transaction fee).
Awful Auntie is at Milton Keynes Theatre from 8-12 November 2017, for more information or to book tickets visit www.atgtickets.com/miltonkeynes or call the box office on 0844 8717652.
Milton Keynes Theatre, 500 Marlborough Gate, Milton Keynes, Bucks, MK9 3NZ