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Awful Auntie @ The Waterside Theatre, Aylesbury

Published by: Yvonne Delahaye on 19th Jul 2018 | View all blogs by Yvonne Delahaye

In the world of children’s literature, David Walliams has become a global phenomenon, with sales of his books exceeding over 20 million copies.  His fourth children’s novel, Gangsta Granny (2011), was his first number one bestseller followed by each of his subsequent novels. Awful Auntie was published in September 2014 and went to No.1 in the children’s book chart for seven weeks. The paperback was published in February 2016 and became the best-selling children’s paperback of the year. Combined sales of the hardback and paperback have now reached over a million copies. It has helped to make Walliams one of the country’s bestselling children’s authors, with four of his books charting in the 2016 children’s top ten. They have also been translated into over 50 languages, bringing worldwide sales to over 17 million. Three of his books have won National Children’s Book Awards.

Awful Auntie tells the story of Stella, who when she sets off to visit London with her parents had no idea her life was in danger. Waking up from a coma three months later, only her Aunt Alberta can tell Stella what has happened. But not everything Aunt Alberta tells her turns out to be true and Stella quickly discovers she’s in for the fight of her life against her very own awful Auntie!

Adapted for the stage by Neal Foster, who also directs the production for the Birmingham Stage Company, following on from the huge success of the Gangsta Granny’s tour. Staging Awful Auntie was challenging, as the action takes place in a huge mansion and Neal wanted to have the play unfold in real time.   Jackie Trousdale has produced an incredible set that moves around with the actors, enabling them to keep up the tension from beginning to end, easily moving outside to indoors.

As an adult actress it’s not easy to play a 12 year old girl, but Georgina Leonidas as Stella soon wins us round as we suspend disbelief. With a mixture of innocent, naivety and courage we get behind her struggle to escape from her dreadful Aunt Alberta’s clutches.

Timothy Speyer as Aunt Alberta, relishes his role as the hideous relative intent on finding the title deeds to inherit the house from Stella, after bumping off her parents.  Helping Stella to confound her evil plans, is a ghost called Soot enthusiastically played by Ashley Cousins.  Aunt Alberta though has trained up her owl, Wagner (Roberta Bellekom) to twart them at every turn.

Adding more comedy into the mix, is Richard James as the eccentric butler Gibbon, whose antics have the children roaring with laughter.

I’ve loved watching all the TV productions of Gansta Granny, Mr Stink, Billionaire Boy, The Boy in the Dress and Ratburger.  Awful Auntie works really well as a stage production with its mix of horror, comedy and detective story.  The actors work incredibly hard at this very physical show and certainly kept us all enthralled and entertained.  The 9 year old in my party loved it and said he wanted to go and buy the book as he hadn’t read it yet, so that’s a great success to get children reading more!

The show runs to Sunday 22nd at The Waterside Theatre www.atgtickets.com/Aylesbury

Reviewed by:

Yvonne Delahaye

18/7/18

@yvonnedelahaye

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