OOH, YOU ARE AWFUL, AUNTIE
A cross-dressing star, a splash of slapstick – and latulence gags galore. Yes, it’s a new David Walliams show...
After the success of Gangsta Granny and his latest children’s book, Bad Dad (I guess we can look forward to Cranky Cousin and Unattractive Uncle), David Walliams’s Awful Auntie gets its stage premiere. The granny tale was partly inspired by his own relative, but even though he had three aunties, Walliams says not one of them was like Aunt Alberta, an upholstered vision in lurid tweed with wild ginger hair. Just as well, as she has plans to deprive her ‘posh’ niece Lady Stella – newly orphaned and just out of a coma from an accident that killed her parents – of her inheritance by snagging the imposing Saxby Hall for herself, aided by a giant owl called Wagner (courtesy of puppeteer Roberta Bellekom) and a scary electrified cage (for children!).
Twelve-year-old Stella, gamely played by Georgina Leonidas, turns detective to learn more about her parents’ death and foil Alberta’s dastardly scheme with the help of a cockney chimneysweep ghost called Soot (Ashley Cousins, very sweet).
Jackie Trousdale’s set has revolving towers cleverly evoking the labyrinthine Thirties mansion for pursuit scenes. As usual with Walliams, most of the young giggles come from fart jokes, and particularly at the slapstick of Timothy Speyer’s whooping-voiced Alberta.
For younger viewers, though, the first half of Neal Foster’s adaptation in particular is rather wordy, with much of the action concentrated in the show’s final 20 minutes. Still, Walliams’s story, even with its understated message about class and people being basically the same, certainly kept their attention.
Timothy Speyer as Aunt Alberta with Wagner the owl. Top left: Georgina Leonidas as Stella and Ashley Cousins as Soot