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Charley’s Aunt review at New Exeter

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Fizzing like champagne this elegant and entertaining production perfectly captures the period’s style and formality in Brandon Thomas’s well-loved play. Director Amanda Knott focuses on movement with beautifully choreographed, stylised entrances adding an illusion of space, and a set-change carried out at break-neck pace during a breathless garden chase that merits its own applause.

There is fine period detail, a curtained set with boldly chequered stage-cloth, decked out with tall white lamp-stands behind which characters lurk to overhear confidences. With admirable economy, there is much doubling. Matthew Townshend convincingly portrays a knowing and soldierly Brassett, and with rapid costume change, moves with speed from irascible and love-struck Spettigue to urbane Sir Francis Chesney.

With speed, style and expression, Harvey Robinson, as the inimitable Lord Fancourt Babberley, has the makings of an innate farceur. His impeccable timing, energy, lightness of delivery, yet poignant and believable sincerity as he discovers his long-lost sweetheart, is a joy to watch.

Elegant and stylishly costumed in summer white, decorous young ladies in an age of chaperones and perfect etiquette, Katherine Senior doubles as Kitty and as the indomitable Donna Lucia, while Kate Sharp plays Amy Spettigue and pretty Ela Delahay. Setting the scene with confidence, Jonathan Parish (Jack) and Mark Smedley (Charley) establish good rapport and keep up the pace throughout.

Gloriously flamboyant, with little of academia but much of the rough and tumble of 1890’s student life, this is a joyous production of gentle uncomplicated and timeless fun.

Production Information

New, Exeter, April 3-6, then touring until June 29

Author
Brandon Thomas
Director
Amanda Knott
Producer
Creative Cow in association with Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford
Cast
Matthew Townshend, Jonathan Parish, Mark Smedley, Harvey Robinson, Katherine Senior and Kate Sharp
Running time
2hrs

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