It was in 2008 that David Walliams had his first children’s novel published and it’s safe to say he has gone from strength to strength since then. Awful Auntie is another number one best seller and has now been portrayed effortlessly to the stage by Birmingham Stage Company (BSC).
Awful Auntie is about Auntie Alberta (played by Timothy Speyer) who is not only awful but desperate to own Saxby Hall. Her plans are actually to burn it down and create an Owleum, (which as we all know is a museum about owls!) However, Stella Saxby, her niece (played by Georgina Leonidas) who awakens from a three month coma is actually the true sole heir. It tells the story of how Stella, with the help of Soot the Chimney sweep ghost, work out what Auntie Alberta’s plans really are.
The performance consisted of five actors. They were all simply perfect. Timothy Speyer was outstanding as larger than life, booming Auntie Alberta. His performance demonstrated endless energy as he portrayed her, stomping across the stage in every scene. Georgina Leonidas played the role of Stella Saxby. She addressed the audience in an innocent, exaggerated manner at times that was most appropriate for the children in the audience. Every part of her performance told the story to perfection. Soot (Ashley Cousins) added a hilarious ‘cockney rhyming’ slang aspect to the performance and this was very well received by the audience. He also ‘broke wind’, that Stella found shocking and the audience of mainly under 12’s, found side splittingly hilarious. Finally, the bumbling butler Gibbon (played by Richard James) possibly received the majority of giggles from the audience in the way everything he did was extremely silly such as taking a tiger skin rug for a walk.
An interesting aspect to the show was the puppetry involved in the part of Wagner (Roberta Bellekom), the Bavarian Owl. A puppeteer was on set and directed the wings and movements of Wagner in the scenes and once you were familiar with the fact it was a hand help puppet I think that the puppeteer became somewhat invisible to the audience and they focussed on only Wagner the owl, it was extremely effective.
I believe it would be remiss not to mention the extraordinary set and stage too. The revolving rooms and aspects of Saxby Hall on stage was brilliant. The chimney that Stella and Soot climbed up and down (many times) was incredible. However, the surprise of the night for me was the car that was driven by Stella and Soot and the motorbike that Auntie Alberta chased after them on. This was carried out seamlessly and truly gave the audience the impression of a car chase.
Walliams has many roles. He maybe a comedian, actor and TV judge but I believe one of his most accomplished accolades must surely be author. Three of his books have now won National Children’s Book awards and the adaption of the books to stage by BSC could not have been carried out any better. Furthermore, from a child’s perspective my young guest for the evening, an avid fan of Walliams, thoroughly enjoyed it and believed that the stage adaptation stayed very close to the book.
Awful Auntie will surely be as successful as the previous theatre tour of Gangsta Granny. The combination of Walliams stories and performances by BSC in my eyes can do no wrong. His stories are hilarious and translate to stage so well.
Reviewer: Angela Kelly
Reviewed: 4th October 2017
North West End Rating: ★★★★