Review of AWFUL AUNTIE Live on Stage at Bloomsbury Theatre
AWFUL AUNTIE is a tantalisingly dark and twisted tale by Roald Dahl’s successor, David Walliams and while the children lapped up every sometimes gruesome second, I watched mostly from behind my hands.
Oliver, 8, and Alexander, 6, were captivated for the duration (and it’s not a short play) with my youngest reassuring me throughout that he was, ‘absolutely not scared Mummy, NOT AT ALL’!
I’m clearly the faint-hearted of the family but this is definitely not for the more sensitive amongst you.
The story of Stella Saxby, 12 year old heir to a manor house Saxby Hall, wakes from a coma to discover her despicable aunt Alberta (and gigantic owl Wagner) has murdered her parents and she might be next. Together with resident ghost Soot, she regains what’s rightfully hers and saves her life.
A brilliant ensemble cast with the likeable and courageous Stella (Georgina Leonidas), her sidekick Soot (Ashley Cousins), and deplorable Aunt Alberta (Richard James) and Gibbon (Harry Sutherland) who were reminiscent of farcical characters in Little Britain… There were many nods to sketches seen previously in Walliams’ work throughout and after recently reading his 2012 autobiography, I wondered if he might well have been undergoing a tumultuous time when he penned this book such is the contrast tonally to Gangsta Granny which we reviewed back in the summer.
We’ve worked with David before and what struck me most was how serious he was. Many comedians are of course, but I suppose he’s such a skilled actor, I believed him to be one and the same: comedian through and through. It’s testament to his mastery how effortlessly he drops into character. He surprised the theatre by coming up on stage at the end of the performance to thank the cast and crew.
So yes AWFUL AUNTIE is a little bit scary (there’s a scene where Stella is ‘electrocuted’ several times) but it’s excellent too.
As with Dahl and since the dawn of drama with Greek tragedies by Sophocles and Euripides, witnessing our fears played out through performance and comedy is undoubtedly cathartic, and again I love that Dahl’s baton for warning children that adults are not all good, has been passed on and continues to teach.
I would have personally loved more light relief and laughter but my children thought it was pitch perfect, and that, frankly, is all that matters.