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Charley’s Aunt review at Royal Exchange Manchester

It proves third time lucky for this new production of Brandon Thomas’s comedy classic.

In 1966, a very young Braham Murray directed an equally young Tom Courtney in the title role of his riotously funny production for the 69 Theatre Company, the precursor to the current Royal Exchange. Since then Emil Wolk’s physical production saw Michael Sheen steal the laughs in his 1994-95 production, which provided much festive cheer.

Now veteran director Murray directs promising young Oliver Gomm in the title role. As Lord Fancourt Babberley, forced to masquerade as Charley’s Aunt from Brazil, his initial resentment at wearing a frock is hilariously transformed into a flirtatiously funny scene culminating in an inspired dive into his costume, which won a deserved round of applause.

Murray has learnt several lessons in the intervening years about directing farce in the round, surmounting problems with the help of designer Johanna Bryant, who dresses the women in delicious period concoctions.

Jack Farthing and Brodie Ross play anxious co-conspirators Jack and Charley, who initially devise this comedy of errors, while Annabel Scholey and Sarah Overs are delightful as their respective love interests.

The mature love story between Briony McRoberts and Michael Elwyn as Donna Lucia and Sir Francis is the icing on the cake.

Farce may not be to everyone’s taste and initially there are moments which seem ridiculously contrived, but this light, summer frolic proves just the tonic for the football blues.

Production Information

Royal Exchange, Manchester, June 22-August 7

Brandon Thomas
Braham Murray
Royal Exchange Theatre
Cast includes
Oliver Gomm, Jack Farthing, Brodie Ross, Sarah Overs, Annabel Scholey, Briony McRoberts, Michael Elwyn, Stephen Hudson
Running time
2hrs 30mins

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