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Charley's Aunt (tour - Eastbourne, Devonshire Park Theatre)

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
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 Set in the year of its first production, 1892 Charley's Aunt is still a regular favourite with its story about a couple of Oxford undergraduates – Jack and Charley – who plan to use the anticipated arrival of Charley's aunt from Brazil as an opportunity to propose to Amy and Kitty. When she is delayed their friend – Lord Fancourt Babberley – hits on the idea to wear a frock and assume her identity.

This production takes us away from the expected, with its minimalist set and occasionally overt playing to the audience. The open stage surrounded with ten lampposts creates the backdrop for this excellent production. The attention to detail in all aspects is a pleasure. For example, the matched costumes that reflect the choreographed symmetry of action and the music that adds to the flow and movement of the play. Probably the best example of this is the scene change between Acts Two and Three, in which all the cast change the set in quick time and still keep the action going.

It is difficult to single out any member of the cast for specific comment as they all work so well together in this ensemble piece. Jonathan Parish as Jack and Mark Smedley's Charley maintain their characters' determination against all the odds to get their girls while adding an air of elegant wry humour. Harvey Robinson as Lord Fancourt is the only other cast member with a single role, albeit much of the play he is in a dress as Charley's aunt – he is appropriately a most unconvincing woman and plays the role without pretence leaving the audience in on the joke throughout.

The other cast members all have multiple roles and many quick changes Katherine Senior who plays Donna Lucia and Kitty and Kate Sharp as both Ela and Amy create their different roles to great effect with little more than a change of hat. Lastly there is Matthew Townshend who plays Brassett the butler, Mr Spettigue and Sir Francis Chesney. These are expertly played with changes of tailcoats and hats; again the differences of personae shines through.

Creative Cow is a talented company with a somewhat different take on this well-known play. It is certainly a production which is well worth seeing if you get the chance.


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