REVIEW: David Walliams’ Awful Auntie at the Cambridge Arts Theatre is perfect half-term entertainment
- Credit: Archant
Having loved Gangsta Granny on the same stage earlier this year, returning to the Cambridge Arts Theatre to see another of David Walliams’ best-selling children’s books brought to life was a no-brainer.
His latest tells the story of 12-year-old Stella Saxby (a convincingly desperate performance from Georgina Leonidas) who is kept locked away in the cellar of her family’s haunted mansion by her conniving, monstrous Aunt Alberta - a snooty country-living villain with a penchant for owls, opera and torture, played brilliantly by Timothy Speyer.
With an ominous owl named Wagner as Alberta’s at-first-evil companion, floorboards that creak in the night and an endless succession of locked doors, a helpless Stella plots her escape - having been told her parents were tragically killed in a car accident.
But “favourite” Auntie Alberta’s story soon unravels when Stella meets a friendly ghost named Soot with a story of his own and the pair turn detective to uncover the awful truth...
Despite minimal set design - instead revolving to reflect different locations in the mansion - and a cast of just six, the Birmingham Stage Company’s production remains interesting and compelling, with a clear attention to detail; the use of puppets to tell parts of the story is unique and expertly done, as directed by Roman Stefanski; equally impressive are Jacqueline Trousdale’s costume designs - especially the tweed shooting jacket worn by Alberta.
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The unintentional star of the show, though, is Auntie Alberta’s faithful yet bumbling butler/servant Gibbon (Richard James as a brilliantly endearing mad scientist), whose consistently witty one liners command the most laughs throughout. A sure favourite with the youngsters in the audience.
One particular scene in the second act involving marbles, shoe polish and ants in Auntie Alberta’s pants had us in stitches, as the evil tyrant begins to get what was coming to her.
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But, like the majority of plays aimed at children, there are also plenty of hidden messages to keep parents engaged too...
Onstage every half-term afternoon and evening until Sunday, Awful Auntie offers plenty of laughs and memorable characters. Don’t miss it!
Visit www.cambridgeartstheatre.com/whats-on/awful-auntie for show times and tickets.