Reviewed by Louise Edwards
David Walliams’ Awful Auntie has arrived at Nottingham’s Theatre Royal this week to the delight of adults and children alike. The book of the same name, written by the ever-popular writer and comedian, has been adapted for stage by Neal Foster, from the Birmingham Stage Company, who has also written and directed Walliams’ Gangsta Granny stage production as well as many of the brilliant Horrible Histories shows. With theatre of this calibre as a track record you know you are going to be in for a treat!
The stage design is simple, hiding its true power until later in the show, and the production starts with a newsreel showing Lord and Lady Saxby and their daughter enjoying life at Saxby Hall. The white screen is whisked away to reveal daughter Stella (played by the fantastic Georgina Leonidas) in bed, waking up to find herself bound from head to toe in bandages and greeted by her Aunt Alberta, played with a slight hint of panto dame by the magnificent Timothy Speyer, who tells her that her she is now an orphan as her parents were killed in a car crash which has left her with every bone broken.
Stella doesn’t trust her Aunt one bit and has soon wriggled out of the bandages and is on her way to escaping from Saxby Hall to find out what has really happened when she is apprehended by her Aunt and her Aunt’s huge, terrifying owl, Wagner (played as a puppet operated brilliantly by Roberta Bellekom). Thus, a chase around the grounds ensues with more clever puppetry before Stella is thrown into the coal cellar to think about where the deeds for Saxby Hall may be so that she can sign them over to his Aunt’s possession.
Down in the coal cellar Stella meets cheeky chappy Soot (played by Ashley Cousins), the resident ghost, who only she will see until her 13th birthday which is just a few days away. Soot becomes a loyal and close friend to Stella as they battle to outwit the evil Aunt. There are plenty of comedy moments captured to perfection and the production runs with impeccable timing with more double crossing as family truths long kept secret are revealed. Running alongside the tale of Stella and Aunt Roberta is the madcap antics of the butler, Gibbon (played by Richard James), who is clearly in a world of his own but it the perfect character to move scenes along cleverly and seamlessly.
This magical show, bringing the book to life, is a strong, quality production with five incredible characters, a fantastic story and brilliant script as well as smooth and effortless stage design, special effects and haunting music. If you are a fan of David Walliams’ books don’t miss this fantastic West End theatre on its regional tour!
Tickets cost from £10 to £24 (booking fees may apply).
Awful Auntie is at the Theatre Royal in Nottingham from 15-19 November 2017, for more information or to book tickets visit www.trch.co.uk or call the box office on 0115 989 5555.
Theatre Royal & Royal Concert Hall, Theatre Square, Nottingham, NG1 5ND | 0115 989 5555