Written by Graham Greene
Adapted for the stage by Giles Havergal
Directed by Kathleen Ray
Performed in March 2015
New Era Players: Travels With My Aunt, at New Era Players, Wash Common, from Thursday, March 12 to Saturday, March 14 and Tuesday, March 17 to Saturday, March 21
Graham Greene's novel Travels With My Aunt, adapted by Giles Havergal, was a brave choice for New Era Players. It is a wordy piece, demanding much from the actors who play 25 different characters and, indeed, the audience, who need to concentrate hard to work out the complex but effective changing of roles.
Three actors, Trevor Pitman, Keith Phillips and Graham Salter, take turns to play the retired prudent bank manager Henry Pulling, wearing similar suits and bowler hats, with Roger Follows in support, performing numerous parts from an Irish wolfhound to railway officials. As well as Henry, Trevor Pitman has the arduous task of playing the eccentric 80-year-old Aunt Augusta who is reunited with her nephew Henry after 40 years at his mother's funeral.
They are complete opposites, Henry preferring to stay at home in suburban Southwood to tend his dahlias, whereas Augusta is an adventurer who has travelled the world and has a vivacious sexual appetite and expensive lifestyle. She has a devoted Sierra Leonean manservant and lover, Wandsworth, who will do anything for Augusta, brought to life by Graham Salter.
She persuades Henry to join her on a mysterious globetrotting quest that takes them from Paris to Istanbul, crossing continents to Paraguay and Argentina. The simple compact set, with excellent use of projection and carefully-chosen images, perfectly captures the various locations.
Keith Phillips was impressive as the CIA agent and brought buoyancy to the many female roles he played.
The plot becomes more complex, and along the way we meet a spy who is on the hunt for stolen Second World War artwork and Augusta's ex lover Mr Visconti who collaborated with the Nazis.
The characters live in a delusional world full of corruption and intrigue, moreover there is a dark secret much closer to home that is slowly revealed as Augusta discloses the family history much to the consternation of Henry.
Director Kathleen Ray keeps the pace flowing and makes much of the humour within the piece and it was enthusiastically received by the appreciative audience.
© 2015 Newbury Weekly News
Henry Pulling, the mild mannered and retired bank manager, leads a quiet life tending his beloved dahlias, and never strays too far from his suburban English home. When his outrageous and eccentric Aunt Augusta suddenly appears in his life with mysterious information about his past, Henry is drawn from the safety of the flower beds into a series of exotic and absurd international adventures.
Henry, Aunt Augusta and more than 25 other characters are portrayed by just 4 male actors who switch identity, nationality, ages and genders. We travel from England to Paris, then take the Orient Express to Switzerland, Milan, Venice, Trieste, Rome, Turkey, Boulogne, ending up in Argentina and then Paraguay.
We can look forward to an irreverent, hilarious and unforgettable adventure with a 75 year old woman (played by a man remember) who has a voracious sexual appetite and a casual disregard for money or conventional morality. What's not to like!
Adapted for the stage by Giles Havergal, Graham Greene's novel takes flight.