Review | Charley's Aunt at The Spring Arts Centre in Havant: 'You will end the evening with a big smile on your face'

A key element in HumDrum’s programming is to occasionally blow the dust of plays that were once hugely popular but have since fallen into obscurity.

By David Penrose
Thursday, 16th June 2022, 4:54 pm

This they have firmly done with their revival of Brandon Thomas’s 1892 classic, Charley’s Aunt.

This slick farce revolves around Lord Fancourt Babberley having to spend an uncomfortable day impersonating his friend’s aunt from Brazil – ‘where the nuts come from’. Once ignited, the plot roars off like a well-oiled machine.

On this first night, the machine took a while to get from nought to 60, but once it was there an accomplished cast maintained a high octane delivery to the end.

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Humdrum stage Charley's Aunt in rehearsal, from left: Nathan Blake, Rob Scott-Moore, Leila Morello, Lauren Haskett and Michael Gondelle

James George’s production relies on sharply delineated characterisations and great finesse in underscoring carefully articulated dialogue with well-timed physicality.

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His 10 actors, with consistent strength across the whole team, rise admirably to their director’s challenge. It is to their collective credit that in the evening’s best moments they make high comedy look easy – which it isn’t.

Michael Gondelle as Jack catches perfectly the desperation of a good man in crisis with Rob Scott-Moore and Nathan Blake earnestly absurd as his two chump friends.

Blake is excellent as the reluctant female impersonator. The role does not call for a pantomime dame or any kind of drag act. Blake’s Aunt is just a man in a dress and all the more funny because no one is more amazed than he is that he’s actually getting away with it. Leila Morello clearly relishes the dazzling vulgarity of being Amy. Tim Skedge invests Jack’s father with great comic vigour. And Paul Comparini as the ridiculous Spettigue is utterly selfless in allowing a lot of very tall actors to constantly remind him that he is very short.

I would have liked to see a bit more attention to period detail in the costuming, especially for the men, but in the production’s use of the space, deliberately minimising the architectural detail of the Victorian locations does allow the swift pace of all that coming and going, so essential to farce, to flow unhindered.

I promise that you will end the evening with a big smile on your face.

Until Saturday.