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New Era - Charley's Aunt

13th to 23rd September 2000.

This is the NWN review.

'CHARLEY'S AUNT', performed by the New Era Players, from September 13 to 23

New Era Players' latest production Charley's Aunt by Brandon Thomas, proved once again that the society's choice of play is not influenced by the restrictions of their acting space.

The plot requires the action to pass from sparse undergraduate rooms to an outdoor garden, with trellis, arches, and roses, and then back again to a different indoor setting complete with piano. This was all skilfully done, and good use was made of the space. The play is set in 1892 and the period costumes, particularly the ladies' exquisite dresses, were excellent.

James Winter and David Tute got off to an energetic start as lovesick duo, Jack and Charles, who plot to meet their sweethearts away from the watchful eye of the girls' respective father and guardian, the tetchy Stephen Spettigue, played with relish by Peter Newbury. They are depending upon Charley's rich aunt to act as chaperone. When the aunt is delayed, Jack and Charles inveigle their friend Babbs to impersonate her, thus creating a series of frantic situations which are resolved only when the real aunt eventually turns up.

Stephen Bennett, as Lord Fancourt Babberley who became the substitute aunt, grew into his character well, conveying, in turn, the enjoyment, frustration and panic of his predicament, with an expressive comic face.

As the two young ladies, Rachel Lashford showed Kitty's suppressed emotional eagerness well, and Jackie Fripp was a good foil as Amy, who wanted to rebel from her father, albeit with some decorum.

Sue Keer brought an authority to the part of the real Donna Lucia; she looked and sounded splendid. Her first scene with her ward Ela, charmingly played by Georgie Gale, conveyed a sure sense of period which had been lacking up to that point. The cast was completed by John Periton as the long-suffering manservant and Tim Oldham as Jack's father.

From the start, the acting was energetic but somewhat lacking in pace, which is a different matter entirely. The cast, for all their virtues, unfortunately failed to extract the full humour of this classic farce.