Oxford, 1892: Two undergraduates, Jack (Nathan Kotzur) and Charley (Sean Pollard), have fallen in love with Kitty (Julie Cotterell) and Amy (Joanna Butler). In an attempt to confess their love to them, Jack and Charley invite the girls over for lunch, to introduce them to Charley’s wealthy aunt from Brazil, whom Charley has never met. In order to keep Charley’s aunt out of the way while they make their moves on the girls, Jack and Charley invite over their friend Lord Fancourt Babberley, or “Babbs”, to entertain and distract the aunt.
Charley’s aunt however, does not arrive, and Babbs, who has an old woman costume for an upcoming theatrical performance, is forced to pose as Charley’s aunt. Wonderfully hilarious antics ensue, and it does not help matters when Jack’s father, for monetary reasons, makes an effort to win Babbs’ hand in marriage.
This is not a one-joke play, as this synopsis might suggest. The obvious jokes regarding a man in woman’s clothes are not elaborated: instead, the humour is derived from the extremely awkward and comical situations in which the three young men find themselves.
The casting is well done, and each actor plays his or her character very vividly. They work well with each other. However very occasionally lines are spoken so fast they are almost inaudible. Special mention must go to Nick Backstrom as Babbs: he delivers his lines with perfect comic timing, and really lifts the entire performance.
It’s a century-old play but as one seeing it for the first time, I can see why it has remained so popular. Charley’s Aunt is about as light-hearted as a play can get, the jokes are all in good taste, the script clever, and Harvest Rain’s production gives us charming performances from the entire cast.
[A debut theatre review by Journalism student
and film reviewer Tom Guerney]