Sunday, 23 September 2018

Destination: Greeneland

With four actors, three male, one female, each playing an assortment of characters - often playing the same one simultaneously - this could have been a very confusing piece, but instead each was successfully performed and anchored, with the aid of props and impeccable timing, as we were taken on a picaresque adventure and a global journey into mayhem.

Travels With My Aunt
Theatre Royal, Windsor
Monday, October 17

With four actors, three male, one female, each playing an assortment of characters - often playing the same one simultaneously - this could have been a very confusing piece, but instead each was successfully performed and anchored, with the aid of props and impeccable timing, as we were taken on a picaresque adventure and a global journey into mayhem.

Bank manager and dahlia lover Henry Pulling finds intrigue and potential freedom from suburbia at his mother's funeral, when he meets his aunt Augusta for the first time in many years. He is whisked off into her world, meeting her loyal lover, Wordsworth.

They set off on some travels, firstly to Brighton, where his tea leaves are read and he is informed that a lot more travel is forthcoming. Winging their way to Paris and Istanbul via the Orient Express and finally making their own separate ways on to Paraguay, Henry and Aunt Augusta come across an array of acquaintances, many of whom seem to have interlaced stories and backgrounds in a series of eerie coincidences.

Having had family who lived in South America back in Graham Greene's era, I was drawn into this play on a personal note. The depiction of a haphazard world, where life is cheap and the local law enforcement somewhat flexible, but on the other hand music and dancing are electric and the very essence of life, was beautifully played out.

Daniel Goode, Richard Earl, Jack Hulland and Katherine Senior seemed to have a jolly old time, carrying out Henry and Aunt Augusta's capers from bowler-hatted middle England via metropolitan Paris, meeting fez-adorned Turkish policemen, through to Paraguay and a mystery Italian man, Mr Visconti, and CIA agent O'Toole with his eye patch.

With lots of mirth and japes around all sorts of topics, from a malfunctioning typewriter to a suspected pregnancy, not forgetting a post-war criminal element heading to the Latin continent, we were giggling along throughout.

The captivating incidental music was by turns jaunty and laden with emotion, with Henry trying to get to know his aunt and find out more about her mysterious lifestyle, as the audience surmised that perhaps that lifestyle involved one or two acts of subterfuge. Particularly successful was the use of some extravagant glasses to show who was Aunt Augusta, herself quite shrill and loud in each actor's incarnation.

As the denouement built up and things panned out, we were left to chew over the pros and cons of romantic, risky adventure versus plodding along in dependable but mundane security.

Travels With My Aunt is on at the Theatre Royal, Windsor, until Saturday.

Review by Natalie Aldred



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