One of the central themes of this play is that there are some things that only children can see. I should therefore preface this review with a disclaimer: I am a grown-up.
Nevertheless, such was the inventiveness and raw energy of this production that this grown-up ended up laughing like a child.
It is a whirlwind of orphaned children, odd butlers, ghosts, owls, and, of course, one very awful auntie.
- You’ll never guess where these cuties have set up home
- You don’t actually have to fly-tip to get done for fly-tipping
All of the action takes place at Saxby Hall, whose many rooms, chimneys and coal stores are cleverly suggested by a set of rotating columns. The feel is Edwardian but in many ways the story takes place in a world of its own.
Aunt Alberta is played brilliantly by Timothy Speyer. She is deluded, wonderfully grotesque and has designs on Saxby Hall.
All that lies in her way is the young Lady Stella Saxby, whose parents have died in mysterious circumstances.
Georgina Leonidas brings a clever balance of childish naivete and determination to the character of Stella.
She is orphaned and alone, locked away in the coal cellar, but refuses to give in to her awful auntie.
She is helped in her struggle by the ghost of a cockney chimney-sweep, played superbly by Ashley Cousins.
Although he is, by his own admission,“brown bread”, his charm and mischievous spirit bring the play to life.
Aunt Alberta has an equally unusual sidekick in the shape of Wagner, her trusted owl.
Roberta Bellekom guides Wagner’s swooping interventions and gives real personality to this pivotal protagonist.
Special mention must also go to Richard James whose eccentric butler very nearly steals the show.
Whether he is hunting mice with a butterfly net or serving steaming slippers for breakfast, he brings an anarchic twist to the show that delighted young and old alike.
The show never gets too deep but there are some genuinely touching moments amidst the farts and frolics. I would recommend this to children and to grown-ups too!