An evening of pure delight
Fourthwall’s current production
Travels With My Aunt, adapted by Giles Havergal from the novel by Graham Greene
This excellent production directed by Peter Dann is not to be missed. According to Peter this has been his most challenging work so far. Congratulations to him & his dedicated cast for making the difficult look easy. Just four actors playing a multitude of characters. These talented performers lead us through a tale of intrigue, surprising revelations and much humour
Henry Pulling, retired bank manager, is reunited with Aunt Augusta at his mother’s funeral, it is 50 years since they last met. He has filled those years tending the garden whilst Augusta, has travelled in the fast lane. Seeking to broaden her nephew’s horizons, she proposes a holiday. Henry, still clutching his Mother’s ashes, stares in disbelief but there’s no time for feeble excuses, her plans are made. These two unlikely companions travel far and wide. Henry recounts their amazing story.
There’s little to distract the audience in this production. Scene changes merge with the action and the cast move from character to character with ease. Continuity is never broken and we concentrate on the essential - the amusing narrative of Graham Greene’s work. So well delivered that our images are clear. We see Henry’s Dahlias, Wordsworth’s uniform even O’Toole’s clinical research, discreetly recorded, we hope.
So, poor, bewildered, Henry finds himself in Paris, he writes to Miss Paterson. ‘Arrived safely, pleasantly warm, comfortable hotel.’ Never again will Henry’s musings be so dull - Monday: delivered the suitcase, Tuesday: police interrogation, Wednesday: fled Istanbul in the dark. During their travels Augusta hints that life is not always as it seems and Henry begins to question his identity.
Graham Greene revealed that he wrote this book for fun and based some characters on friends and aquaintances. Fun it certainly is, entertainment of the highest standard. As the plot gains momentum so does the action, the cast’s snappy routines, delivered with expert timing, leave us breathless. Was that a real dog?
The 2nd Act brings a change of scene and mood, hot and humid, in South America. Pathos and tragedy are well balanced with humour. Allowing sympathy for the lovelorn Wordsworth and regret for his untimely demise. However, all good stories have a happy ending. Henry finally learns the truth and Aunt Augusta dances off into the sunset. “All’s well with the world.”
Travels With My Aunt
Fourthwall Contemporary Theatre
Not every small theatre company would dare to take on a classic Graham Green tale, but Fourthwall are a brave and hardworking little troupe and pull it off with dignity and great humour.
With just 4 actors, the story unfolds around Henry Pulling, a retired bank manager who has led a safe and dull life, until he reacquaints himself with Aunt Augusta. Having not seen the lady for 50 years, Augusta appears at the funeral of her sister, the woman Henry believed to be his mother. What follows is a rapid and extremely funny romp as Henry is launched into Augusta’s world of travel and adventure, mystery and refined chaos. With minimal props and a clever soundtrack, Fourthwall bring us scenes from Brighton, the Orient Express, Paris and South America. The cast are dressed the same throughout, beginning with the opening scenes in dark suits as befits all funerals and changing for the second half into lighter Panama style suits as we are led through the steamy throngs of Istanbul and Paraguay.
Director Peter Dann brings us everything we could wish for in this adaptation, particularly in his casting of so many roles with so few actors; Nic Early is a delight in all his various guises, but as both Henry and Aunt Augusta he positively shines, Sally Collings changes roles at breakneck speed and I am reliably informed she takes on more than 20 characters, Jamie Best and John Lawrey complete the cast with intelligent and strong performances.
A brilliant adaptation, which kept the audience on it’s toes with speed and wit.Travels With My Aunt continues touring, visit www.fourthwall.co.uk for more details.
Radio St. Austell Bay
TRAVELS WITH MY AUNT
by Graham Greene adapted by Giles Havergal.
FOURTHWALL CONTEMPORARY THEATRE
REVIEW: Rick Barbery
If only we all had had an elderly relation like Aunt Augusta in Graham Greene’s novel “Travels with my Aunt”. Refined, confident and caught up in all manner of shady liaisons and activities. Having her as part of the family would make life all that more exciting. Devon and Cornwall based theatre company Fourthwall are currently on tour with Giles Havergal’s adaptation of Greene’s novel and bring the author’s wry, intelligent text to life through some fine character acting and imaginative staging. With more plot twists than the Da Vinci Code, “Travels with my Aunt” takes us on a journey from sleepy suburban England to the badlands of Paraguay by way of exotic Istanbul. Greene’s story is all about seizing the moment through the abstract device of an elderly woman whose philosophy in life is not to slavishly creep towards inevitability but to meet it head on coming in the opposite direction. All the roles, and there are many, are played by an identically dressed cast of four who seamlessly swap characters. It would have been all too easy to give the role of Aunt Augusta to a female, so it’s a revelation to see Nic Early play the game old bird with so much authenticity that by the end of the play you’ll firmly believe you are watching a refined old lady dancing in the moonlight. Jamie Best as Henry, her timid dahlia loving nephew, convincingly takes on the role of the bewildered bachelor spluttering indignation that finally mellows into the acceptance that life is much more fun when you take a risk. Sally Collings flits between around twenty cameo slots, portraying as much with her body language as with umpteen accents making an assured definition between each character and Augusta’s valet and lover Wordsworth, played in languid style by John Lawrey, is a perfect foil to Augusta’s more caustic character.
Peter Dann directs the action through an imaginative use of minimal props and set and audio-visual effects that convincingly narrate the story.
On tour until the end of October and calling at villages all over the southwest, don’t miss this piece of intelligent, funny and well-presented theatre.
'Travels With My Aunt' is adapted from a Graham Greene novel by Giles Havergal. Directed by Peter Dann, it is the 2011 touring production from Fourthwall Contemporary Theatre. Last night it stopped off at the Carlton Theatre, Teignmouth where there were plenty of laughs to be had.
I can shamelessly say that this presentation came in a format that I adore. Very little set, a handful of wonderful actors playing a large number of characters, being responsible for their own scene changes, a small amount of data projection and a plot that has a mixture of comedy, mystery and just a touch of sadness thrown in.
The audience is left under no illusion as to the narrative they are going to enjoy, when four actors step onto the stage, dressed identically and playing the same character, Henry, our narrator. They take it in turns to lead us through a range of set pieces, as Henry meets his Aunt Augusta and then embarks on some travelling with her, as you might expect.
Nic Early shines as Aunt Agatha, with a sympathetic portrayal which is comic not for his being a man playing a woman, but for the glorious characterisation of an old lady with a seedy past and a present twinkle. In the range of characters he plays, O'Toole is also notable fun for his interplay with Henry, particularly when explaining his research project.
Jamie Best is the linchpin of the production, taking on the bulk of Henry's narrative and sharing the majority of the work with Early in driving the journey along, but playing a sober straightman, more often the butt of the joke physically, whilst getting a wealth of great material to deliver.
If Aunt Agatha has a man in her life, rule of thumb for this performance is that he'll be played by John Lawrey, who seemed to pick off three characters who'd had his wicked way with the lady concerned. Getting the chance to play both sides of two arguing characters across a number of scenes gives an enjoyable contrast, building to a beautifully staged reveal as all four actors play a part in Henry's final discoveries.
Whilst there's a lot of fun to be hand, and great characters to follow on the travels, it was Sally Collins who had the scene stealing moments, playing all of the bit parts the others meet along the way. Highlights include a Spanish palm reader, an American student mid pregnancy-scare, an elderly lover of Henry's father, the delightful Miss Paterson correcting mistakes at her typewriter and one role that wasn't quite human. Collins also has a diverse range of henchmen and sidekicks, who all take pleasure in making Henry's life miserable.
The biggest compliment must be that they made it look easy - but with constant scene changes, the blocking of movement is complex yet seamless. The location changes may be down to the arrangement of furniture and performance, but the travels feel real, and a helpful projection reminds you where they are, although more for added humour than any need for clarification.
A strong cast, in a great production.
Jolyon’s Theatrical Reviews