Originally published in Palatinate, Indigo – November 2014.
Charley’s Aunt is a lesser known play. Thus, without a familiarity with the play itself, expectations were more guarded – although they needn’t have been. Despite this being some cast members’ first experience of university theatre, their acting was skillful and laughs abounded.
The role of Lord Fancourt Babberly, who played the impersonator of Charley’s Aunt was a challenging one. This role was played by first year student Archie Hill who, when he first arrived on the stage, did not appear as the ideal choice for the title role within the play. While playing Lord Babberly, his acting was slightly uncertain but once he was wearing the garish bonnet and dress of ‘Charley’s Aunt’ he appeared much more at ease. Through drawing on the dramatic irony of individual lines and at times adopting the most unbelievable falsetto, Archie Hill brought added humour to this already enjoyable play.
The more technical aspects of the play should be touched upon briefly. The minimalist nature of the props and set had both positive and negative implications. Transitions between scenes, including a substantial set change, which was set to music from the period, were carried out swiftly and efficiently. However, it would have been perhaps more atmospheric, especially at the less comical moments of the play, to have a more detailed set to allow the audience to visualise where events were taking place. This was, of course, no longer a problem once events escalated and the deception began…
The costumes were also interesting, with Lord Babberly humorously dressed as Charley’s Aunt. A red bonnet, pink dress and a strange jacket were an interesting approximation of the actually more fashionable Donna Lucia d’Alvadorez. While the suits worn by the other male actors were never going to be a point of consideration in their own right, the dresses were all beautiful.
One small issue was the delay between the advertised start time of the play and also the overly long interval. While these issues were of minor importance in comparison to other aspects of the production, they may be something for the production company to take into account in future.
From the roles of the Charlie to Brassett, the actors performed well and provided welcome enjoyment on an otherwise quiet Sunday evening, with the rest of the audience members appreciating this play just as much as I did.
While Charley’s Aunt is not a traditionally popular play, perhaps it should be, as it was highly enjoyable evening of theatre.