Reviewed by Gemma Ingham
David Walliams seems to have his fingers in all the pies! He’s an actor, comedian, talent show judge and author to name but a few. I’m a fan of his comedy show Little Britain and I have to admit to watching Britain’s Got Talent in which Walliams is a judge. I had heard of his children’s books being described as similar in style to Roald Dahl which immediately appealed to me, so prior to going to see Awful Auntie at the Alhambra Theatre in Bradford I ordered a copy of the book. The book is definitely too text heavy for my 5 and a half year old to read herself, but I enjoyed it and gave my daughter a rough outline of the story we would be watching unfold on stage.
I’ve been to see a few shows at the Alhambra on an evening, and I was grateful that Awful Auntie started a little earlier than the usual time. I’m assuming this is because it’s aimed at children and anyone who has a child knows that taking your young child out way after bedtime and expecting them to behave well in public is just asking for trouble! The Alhambra is conveniently located near public transport and a short drive from the M62.
Awful Auntie is one of Walliams’ later books, published in 2014, and tells the tale of a young girl called Stella Saxby (Georgina Leonidas) who inherits Saxby Hall after the death of her parents. Her awful Aunt Alberta (Timothy Speyer) is her guardian and is dead set on getting Saxby Hall for herself. With the help of her huge owl Wagner, she tries to trick Stella out of her inheritance. Stella however, along with friendly ghost Soot (Ashley Cousins) turns detective to solve the mystery of what happened to her parents in order to bring her awful aunt to justice.
The set design was actually quite fantastic given that the story is set inside and in the grounds of a sprawling mansion and is quite fast moving. Different elements of the set moved fluidly to allow chases and quick switches from room to room without any stopping and starting of scenes. It’s quite an accomplishment!
The show also features puppetry mainly to portray Wagner (controlled by Roberta Bellekom), Aunt Albert’s great Bavarian Owl. Puppet forms of Aunt Alberta and Stella are also used on occasion and although quite odd it’s effective in showing the characters in relation to where they are in Saxby Hall.
As you would expect from a play adapted from one of Walliams’ books, it’s full of comedy and had my daughter (and me) laughing out loud. Her favourite part by far was when Stella and Soot were playing pranks on Aunt Alberta. She also enjoyed Gibbon (Richard James), the ageing butler who provided a bit of slapstick comedy.
I would highly recommend Awful Auntie to anyone of any age.
Tickets cost from £18.50 to £20.50 (booking fees may apply).
Awful Auntie is at the Alhambra Theatre in Bradford from 27-31 March 2018, for more information or to book tickets visit www.bradford-theatres.co.uk or call the box office on 01274 432000.
Alhambra Theatre, Morley Street, Bradford, BD7 1AJ | 01274 432000