Awful Auntie at Bristol Hippodrome

It was unfortunate that the day that I reviewed Awful Auntie with my 12 year old was also the day that the meteor hit and a new update was released in Fortnite. I suspect that there are many parents who will completely get what this means and a lot more people who have no idea at all what that means. The best analogy I can come up with is it’s like I dragged a dedicated Bristol Rovers fan away from the TV on the day that they were in the FA cup final. In short, he was torn – he was looking forward to seeing this show for weeks, but on the night he was very much distracted.

This is a really clever production, beautifully done. I liked the puppets and the outfits and the actors and the music and everything. I didn’t dislike the story, I just didn’t quite get it. I don’t mean I didn’t know what was going on, it’s just that it’s very well targetted for an age group and/or particular type of humour that isn’t quite mine.

I loved the sheer genius of the set and Jacqueline Trousdale, the set and costume designer, definitely deserves applause for this. There are four almost-circular ‘towers’, and each is a magical box of hidden tricks. Throughout the show they move, gliding over the stage and smoothly rotating to show an owl cage, shelves of books, a kitchen fire, a coal chute, a cupboard full of plates, a bathroom … there seemed to always be one more detail in, through or on top of each. The choreography of their movement was flawless and hypnotic. They were used to great effect to show a chase through the house, with the characters running through and between them as they revolved and swang around the stage. Other memorable moments with the set include the frozen lake, and the car driving around the set.

Anything negative I have to say about this is purely a result of being old and grumpy, and the above. I think I would have loved it as a child. I think my five year old would have found it hilarious. The kids sat around us certainly did (especially the bit where Aunt Agatha had a wee on a toilet that had a nasty surprise set up in it). As an adult I chose to go because I have a child and I wanted to see him enjoy it, and I expected to be a little amused and entertained – which I was. I think though that my boy was just a little past the peak point for a show like this – slightly oddly as he still loves the David Walliams books. It may also of course just have been the result of his being dragged away from Fortnite on this day of all days.

The acting was exactly as you’d hope for something like this – slightly overblown, with Timoty Speyer truly awful as Aunt Agatha, Georgina Leonidas very likeable and young as Stella, Ashley Cousins suitably sweet and sad as the ghost, Soot and Richard James as Gibbon properly barking mad – he had some of the best and most bizarre moments of the whole show. And then there was Wagner – Roberta Bellekom did a perfect job of being almost unnoticeable as she controlled the owl puppet, giving him personality and a mean peck.

It’s definitely a show for the kids as far as I’m concerned, but a good show for the kids.


Awful Auntie shows at Bristol Hippodrome until 6th May


Image by Mark Douet, with thanks

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