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Charley's Aunt
by Brandon Thomas

New Wimbledon Studio

2007

Cast list

Photography
(by Francis Mander )

Review

Press Release

Jack Chesney
Hugo Thurston
Brassett
Roger Sansom
Charley Wykeham
William Findley
Lord Fancourt Babberley
Jos Vantyler
Kitty Verdun
Lucie Dobbing
Amy Spettigue
Abigail Hood
Col Sir Francis Chesney Bt
Nigel Nobes
Stephen Spettigue
Simon Clark
Donna Lucia D'Alvadorez
Carola Stewart
Ela Delahay
Chameli Meir
 
Directed by
Bryan Hands
Designed by
Michael D Ford
Richard Newman
Costumes
Didi Chapman
Assistant Director / Casting
Carola Stewart
Stage Manager
Matthew Hales
Deputy Stage Manager
Lucie Coulton
Assistant Stage Manager
Scott Bridgens
Poster Cartoon
Charles Yorke
Production Photographs
Francis Mander
Wigs
Derek Eaton

Review of Charley's Aunt
"A witty and entertaining piece" by Jane McDowell for remotegoat

Although Brandon Thomas's most successful and well-known play Charley's Aunt was written in the late 19th century, the years have not diminished its appeal. The play does not have the word play and elegant language of Thomas's contemporary Oscar Wilde, but it is nonetheless a witty and entertaining piece. It has been described as "the funniest farce ever written" and has enjoyed many stage and screen versions over the years. The first ever performance was at The Theatre Royal Bury St. Edmunds, opening on 21st December 1892 before transferring to The Globe Theatre and enjoying a record-breaking four year run with 1,466 performances. It achieved equal success on Broadway, has been made into a musical twice and filmed at least five times. It has also been performed in Russian, German and Danish.

Love and its complications preoccupy the main protagonists, although the social mores of the 19th century have changed beyond recognition to what is acceptable today. The problems that beset Charley Wykeham and Jack Chesney, two Oxford undergraduates, revolve around the fact that it was strictly forbidden in those days for young ladies to venture out in mixed company without a chaperone. Jack (Hugo Thurston) and Charley (William Findley), about to graduate from Oxford and madly in love with Kitty (Lucie Dobbing) and Amy (Abigail Hood) respectively, are desperately seeking an opportunity to declare their love to the girls and need a suitable chaperone. Help arrives in the shape of long lost Aunt Donna Lucia D'Alvadorez (Carola Stewart) from Brazil "where the nuts come from", whom Charley has never met. Lunch is arranged with alacrity but when Aunt sends word that she has been delayed for several days, Jack and Charley find a replacement fast in the shape of fellow undergraduate Lord Babberley, "Babs" (Jos Vantyler) who has, providentially, thespianic tendencies and is in fact trying out a costume for a new play he is in - fortuitously the character is that of an older lady. When he dons the costume and character of "Aunt", the fun and confusion start in earnest and when the real Donna Lucia arrives from Brazil, the comedy reaches new heights of absurdity and hilarity.

Inspired by undergraduate eccentricities and life at University, it is set in the fictitious college St. Olde's College in Oxford. Logos Theatre's production is charming, energetic and at times frenetic. The three set changes are deftly handled in this small studio space of the New Wimbledon Studio which, because it is so small, lends a filmic quality to the performance which works very well. Lovely period costumes and expert lighting enhance the production although the upright piano in the Spettigues' drawing room in Act 3 was too obviously modern. There are elements of farce aplenty with frantic chases around and off the stage, pratfalls and double takes. The production sparkles in the farce set-pieces and one of the highlights is an expertly choreographed and executed "dance" between Jack, Charley and Babs and a leather case containing four bottles of (stolen) champagne which is tossed between them. So physical and nimble were the actors here that I was reminded of the work of DV8 in Enter Achilles. The comedy in farce derives from text and situation and real people trapped in absurd situations. For period farce to work best, the acting and direction must be precise and subtle and the cast and director do not disappoint.

The acting is detailed and believable even in the most heightened moments of absurdity. Particularly impressive are William Findley as Charley who gives a truthful and touching performance, Carola Stewart who is dignified and elegant as Aunt Donna Lucia D'Alvadorez and Nigel Nobes who is extremely funny as ex military man Col. Sir Francis Chesney. However, it is Jos Vantyler as Lord Fancourt Babberley/Aunt Donna Lucia D'Alvadorez who steals the show in, it must be said, the best role in the play. He has sublime energy and comic timing and is blessed with a highly mobile face which is wonderfully expressive. He transforms voice and physicality seamlessly from drinking, cigar smoking masculinity to squeaky femininity. I am not sure if his variable accent (American, Brazilian?) was deliberate but it hardly mattered and only enhanced the comedy.

PRESS RELEASE

Wednesday 28 November - Saturday 15 December 2007

OSCAR WINNER MICHAEL FORD DESIGNS THE SET FOR LOGOS THEATRE COMPANY’S PRODUCTION OF CHARLEY’S AUNT

MICHAEL FORD has won two Oscars; 'Best Art Direction' and 'Set Decoration' for Titanic and Raiders of the Lost Ark and has received two Oscar nominations, again for 'Set Decoration' for Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back and Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi.  However, for this project he has returned to his theatrical roots and has designed the set for Brandon Thomas’s hilarious farce, Charley’s Aunt.  The last time Michael Ford designed a stage set was in the 1950s when he was involved with weekly rep in Great Yarmouth - with a change of play each week the turnover was astounding. 

Asked why he has returned to the theatre after his illustrious movie career, he said he thought it would be fun and he likes the period in which Charley’s Aunt is set. The biggest challenge he has had to face is trying to make his designs fit a small stage, but with  Richard Newman, assistant to Michael and set builder, on hand with computer drawn layouts of the venue, Michael managed to work his magic and create his drawings. Technology and experience have combined to create a set which hopefully will receive a round of applause as was the custom in ‘rep’ years ago. 
Michael studied book illustration at Goldsmiths and has always been able to draw and paint inventively. He says his inspiration comes from observation and this is evident in his quirky paintings; he loves to paint animals and humans and then turn a subject upside down. Now he is retired Michael devotes two hours a day to his painting. 

Click on the image below
to view Michael Ford’s paintings

Charley’s Aunt has been described as the ‘funniest farce ever written’!  First produced in 1892 it has probably been in production somewhere in the world ever since.   Never failing to delight, this anarchic comedy has been the subject of several films and two musicals.   LOGOS are delighted to be returning once again to Wimbledon with this sparkling production for all the family for the pre-Christmas Season.

LOGOS Theatre Company prides itself on producing authentic performances that are true to the original period of the play, script and age of the characters.  With this in mind a talented young cast join Logos regulars CAROLA STEWART and ROGER SANSOM with SIMON CLARK (who recently toured with Annie and was in Aladdin at The Old Vic with Sir Ian McKellen); and young Irish/American actor  JOS VANTYLER who will play Lord Fancourt Babberley. Brought up in LA, Jos has worked on and ‘off’ Broadway, in Film and TV, winning an award for his appearance in A View from the Bridge.  He can currently be heard on Radio London where he hosts a regular ‘What’s On’ programme.  BRYAN HANDS, who directed last year's LOGOS production of Ghosts, will be directing Charley’s Aunt, and he is very pleased to be back in Wimbledon Theatre, the place where he started his career.

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