Charley's Aunt

CHRISTOPHER SMITH Sewell Barn, Norwich


> Sewell Barn, Norwich

Commem in Oxford in 1892. Those were the days, with summer weather, endless leisure and a first-class chance for a bit of flirting. The only trouble was that in that period they wouldn't let a chap alone with a pretty girl without a chaperone. But put two wastrels together, bring in a third, persuade a college servant to come up with the readies, and you have the making of a plot. Not much of a plot, admittedly; in fact, it skirts absurdity. But if you let yourself go with the flow, there is a lot of fun to be had. Mischievous matchmaking is the name of the game, and the bright sparks are soon flying.

The jokes, like the costumes, are period pieces, as flannelled fools in outrageously striped blazers enjoy their corny puns. Timing is of the essence, of course, as confusion leads even the elders in a merry dance. Terry Dabbs puts on the heavy Victorian father, while Peter Jackson, of the same generation, has just that touch of gentlemanly distinction. In the closing scenes Rebecca Keane assumes authority like Lady Brack-nell come again. Jeremy Page and Tom Richardson make a nicely contrasting pair of undergraduates. Will Cannell-Smith makes a splendidly half-convincing Charlie's Aunt before appearing in his own right, and in his trousers, as a Byronic Heartthrob.

Director Robert Little keeps up the momentum so that we laugh before we think, and John Stokes provides a backdrop with all the lush green of a college garden in midsummer.

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