Written by Brandon Thomas
Adapted and Directed by John Hewer
Kitty Verdun – Helen Crawshaw
Amy Spettigue – Natalie Glew
Lord Fancourt Babberley – John Hewer
Sir Francis Chesney – Laurence Mager
Jack Chesney – Adam Shannon
Donna Lucia – Sophie Skipworth
Stephen Spettigue – David Turner
Charley Wykeham – William Weir
Brandon Thomas’ evergreen farce remains a classic and endearing example of the genre. When Jack and Charley, two Oxford students, seek a chaperone in order to propsoe to their would-be fiancees, they decide upon Charley’s Aunt. But when she cancels her visit at the last moment, the boys have no choice but to force their friend Lord Fancourt Babberley into the role…. and a dress!
Charley’s Aunt opened at Caistor Town Hall on 20th April 2009, and went on tour to Riverhead Theatre Louth, Red Lion Theatre Horncastle, Caistor Town Hall, Broadbent Theatre Wickenby, Burton-upon-Stather Village Hall, Fulstow Village Hall, Tattershall Hall, Enterprise Hall Sutton-on-Sea and EPPiC Theatre Sheffield.
The intimate Ecclesfield Theatre was the final night of a tour for Hambledon Productions’s rendition of Brandon Thomas’s farce.
Set in Oxford University in 1892, two young men, Jack and Charley have the ominous tasks of manufacturing a situation where they can propose marriage to their sweethearts. A lunch engagement, with Charley’s aunt as chaperone is the ideal solution. When she is delayed however, their male friend Babbs, who happens to be dressed in drag at the opportune moment, is persuaded to step in.
John Hewer, who runs the Production company with his sister, Rachael, gives himself the plum role of Babbs, providing most of the laughs with plenty of slapstick, girly shrieking and facial gymnastics. Equally good are the more subtle performances from Adam Shannon and William Weir as Jack and Charley respectively. They have the unenviable task of stemming Babbs’s histrionics and restoring the appropriate airs and graces of the era. They are also good at displaying the social awkwardness men feel when articulating their feelings to women. This is as true today in 2009 as it was in 1892.
Laurence Mager provides good support as Jack’s dad. He has a formidable stage presence helped by his stature and girth in the ilk of Brian Blessed.
Helen Crawshaw also puts in a confident, measured performance as Kitty, who finally gets a proposal from poor stuttering Jack.
John Hewer also directed this successful romp with some great period costumes provided by Jane Blenkhorn and Bunny Stokes.
Stephen Grigg, SHEFFIELD STAR, 8th September 2009
COMIC DELIGHT DEFIES YEARS
Charley’s Aunt first appeared on the London stage a little over 100 years ago, proving a huge success and breaking all box office records at the time.
The farce has remained popular and some may remember the film version starring Arthur Askey, but this week Hambledon Productions took the opportunity to stage a revival at Louth’s Riverhead Theatre.
Siblings Rachael and John Hewer founded the locally-based theatre company and for this production, John has adapted the script, assumed the part of director and cast himself in the title role.
The story unravels during the course of a single day in Oxford back in 1892; a time when young ladies required chaperones and young men could still be heard to utter ‘By gad’ and ‘beastly’.
Adam Shannon and William Weir are ideal as the upper-class undergraduates Jack Chesney and Charley Wykeham intent on proposing to the genteelly played Kitty Verdun (Helen Crawshaw) and Amy Spettigue (Natalie Glew).
The impending visit of Charley’s aunt solves the question of a suitable chaperone, until a telegram announces a delay in her arrival.
With typical student cunning, they persuade their friend and budding actor, Lord Fancourt Babberley, to dress up and impersonate the aunt.
Of course, in the true tradition of farce, this is the point at which the story descends into absurdity.
This early-day Lily Savage quickly attracts the amorous attentions of Jack’s father, Sir Francis (Laurence Mager), and Amy’s father, Stephen (David Turner).
Further complications arise when the real aunt, Donna Lucia d’Alvadorez (Sophie Skipworth), arrives on the scene.
John Hewer demonstrated superb timing and frenetic energy as Charley’s aunt and dressed all in black, his disdainful looks became somewhat reminiscent of Queen Victoria.
Humour does not always survive the passage of time but in the hands of this cast, Charley’s Aunt has retained its appeal.
Trevor Ekins, GRIMSBY TELEGRAPH, 2nd May 2009