Get our free email newsletter with just one click

Travels with my Aunt review at Oldham Coliseum

by -

It’s England in 1969 and four bowler-hatted men in the sharpest of identical suits come on twirling umbrellas. An audition for a comeback of The Avengers? No, one of Graham Greene’s most picaresque novels being brought back to vivid life by a revival of Giles Havergal’s inspired adaptation. Though it first saw the light of day back in 1989, at Glasgow Citizen’s Theatre, it seems to get funnier with every passing year.

Four male actors, with the most expressive of faces and mastery of silly walks, step aboard the Orient Express, moving from Paris to Istanbul and deftly in and out of a score of roles. The most remarkable feature, however, is that they all take turns at playing the narrator and central character, self-effacing retired bank-manager Henry Pulling.

As the waspish septuagenarian, Aunt Augusta, a lady with a scandalous past, Kieran Buckeridge twitches and quavers like Maggie Smith, while Robin Simpson somehow contrives to capture the droll kinship of a CIA agent and his hippy daughter, both called Tooley, as well as for good measure doing a rather good Irish wolfhound.

Chris Hannon has his work cut out as Augusta’s West Indian toyboy, Wordsworth, in addition to the love of her life, the decrepit Mr Visconti, not to mention being a remarkable jack of all trades – taxis drivers, coppers, dodgy South Americans.

And Tony Jayawardena excels in all his hysterical roles not least those of Henry’s largely absent girlfriend who spends her time tatting and chief of police Hakim.

Director Joyce Branagh is to be congratulated on this highly energetic and physical production, which in spite of being achingly funny raises all of the author’s persistent human dilemmas. Greene would no doubt have approved.

Production Information

Oldham Coliseum, October 9-25

Graham Greene, adapted by Giles Havergal
Joyce Branagh
Oldham Coliseum Theatre
Kieran Buckeridge, Chris Hannon, Tony Jayawardena, Robin Simpson
Running time
2hrs 30mins

We need your help…

When you subscribe to The Stage, you’re investing in our journalism. And our journalism is invested in supporting theatre and the performing arts.

The Stage is a family business, operated by the same family since we were founded in 1880. We do not receive government funding. We are not owned by a large corporation. Our editorial is not dictated by ticket sales.

We are fully independent, but this means we rely on revenue from readers to survive.

Help us continue to report on great work across the UK, champion new talent and keep up our investigative journalism that holds the powerful to account. Your subscription helps ensure our journalism can continue.

Subscribers to The Stage get 10% off The Stage Tickets’ price