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Charley’s Aunt review at Oxford Playhouse

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Charley’s Aunt has undergone many adaptations, often with an American twist. As might be expected at the Oxford Playhouse, this current version is defiantly varsity 1892, restoring the play to its original milieu of scouts, bewildered colonialists and farcical amours in the college gardens. Its ambition is to whip up a perfect summer confection; if this sounds appealing, then it won’t disappoint.

Period touches are handled deftly; silent movie style captions to introduce each act, a storybook backdrop of college crests and chaise longues. The hapless undergraduates, Jack and Charles (played by Charlie Walker-Wise and Leon Williams) are not overdone; they’re not as plummy as their elders and thus their slang (“splendid”, “what the deuce?”) avoids being arch or overbearingly polo-field. On the other hand, Patrick Ryecart and Christopher Good (as Sir Francis and Stephen Spettigue) are played alternately with tight lips and lush thespian relish.

Outdoing all is Nick Caldecott, as Lord Fancourt Babberley/Charley’s Aunt. His rubbery face twitches mischievously throughout, while his delivery maintains its hyperactive pace with panache. If Saved by the Bell had been set at Eton, he would have undoubtedly made the most of the Screech role.

This play is not Oscar Wilde – some of the lines are distinctly clunky and odd-sounding, particularly 100 years on. But it’s an amusing period piece and the enthusiasm of the players should be catching.

Production Information

Oxford Playhouse, August 10-September 2

Author
Brandon Thomas
Director
Timothy Sheader
Production
Oxford Playhouse
Cast
Nick Caldecott, Charlie Walker-Wise, Leon Wiliams, Patrick Ryecart, Christina Greatrex, Emma Callander, Dulcie Lewis, Russell Dixon, Christopher Good, Ellie Beaven
Running time
2hrs 30mins
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