Did you see my Mouse Trap review a little while ago? Well I’ve done another one… This time for Travels With My Aunt. Thank you Lighthouse Poole, Young Reviewers!
Travels With My Aunt, written by Graham Greene, came to Lighthouse, Poole and was performed by the Creative Cow Company. They created an interesting take on a well-loved book that has been doing the rounds in theatres and on screen for the past 40 years. I took the chance to go and see it on a Saturday afternoon in April.
The curtain goes up and you’re introduced to the cast of four, all wearing identical 3 piece suits, who had the interesting task of playing 10+ characters in the story. The fast chopping and changing of roles and faces meant the only way to keep track was to keep an eye out for the waving of a careful choice of small character distinguishing props and ear out for the most outrageous use of accents.
Straight-laced, retired bank manager, Mr. Henry Pulling when at his mother’s funeral, meets his Aunt Augusta – distinguished by the flourish of an ever-present pair of Dame-Edna-esque glasses and an upper-class drawling voice – for the first time. Shocked that Henry has never left the country, Aunt Augusta demands he joins her on a trip to Brighton. But only after dropping the bombshell that the woman they have just buried isn’t really his Mother.
One thing leads to another and safe Mr. Pulling finds his sense of adventure through following his absurdly eccentric Aunt on her world wide quest to flash her cash, smuggle stolen treasures and find her long lost love, the questionable Mr. Visconti, in the dangerous side of Panama.
All this sounds like it should be quite a laugh, but actually? I found it quite boring. I stayed awake (which is more than can be said of the person sat behind me) and it just about held my attention but I wasn’t actively enjoying myself. I felt the obligation of appreciating the work of the actors in front of me and the guilt of longing to be somewhere else on my Saturday afternoon.
Whilst the acting was good and I enjoyed the fast paced way every actor chopped and changed between characters, I didn’t connect with any of them. To be completely honest I haven’t even remembered their names. The only reason I’ve got them in this review is down to Google.
I think this is down the play being so stereotypically 1920’s English (even though it’s set in post-WW2 London). From the pronunciation of “three piece ss-yew-ts” to the uncomfortable racial stereotyping you were always a few social barriers away from making any connection with the people portrayed on the stage. All the character dialogue stayed on surface level. There were a few moments that looked like it could open up to Graham Greene’s comment on love and morality – which would have added a fascinating layer to the mix – but they were quickly overshadowed by more frivolity.
It’s a shame; because I’ve heard people share their love for the book and their love for Creative Cow Company. Maybe Travels With My Aunt doesn’t quite translate into 21st century theatre… it’s another story that reinforces the posh ‘tally-hoe’ English theatre stereotype that can make even the most entertaining parts of the narrative just a little bit dull, and make a reasonably young audience switch off.
So I’ve decided I’m going to read the book and see if it comes across better on paper. I’m also going to see a different Creative Cow Company show, because, despite me not enjoying Travels with my Aunt, their performance has made me intrigued about what else they can do.
Let’s just hope they’re not wearing “ss-yew-ts” again.