Sensational symmetry transforms Charley’s Aunt

charleys auntARTSBEAT REVIEW: Sensational symmetry takes centre stage in Creative Cow’s minimalist production of the genteel comedy Charley’s Aunt.

Excellent attention to detail with the set, costumes and choreography has resulted in an elegant and stylish, yet fast-paced and contemporary version of the much-loved farce.

Director Amanda Knott has focused on movement and surrounded the stage with ten lampposts to create a backdrop that enables her to be more inventive with the positioning of the cast as they race around the set at breakneck speed.

There was applause from the audience, at the Pomegranate Theatre, in Chesterfield, at the end of act two during which the cast engineer a swift set change while keeping the action going. It was breathtaking.

Set in 1892 Brandon Thomas’ Charley’s Aunt is a story about a couple of posh Oxford undergraduates – Jack and Charley – who plan to use the arrival of the aunt from Brazil as an opportunity to propose to their loved ones Amy and Kitty.

When she cancels at the last minute they persuade their friend Lord Fancourt Babbersley (Babbs) to don a frock and do the honours.

Madness ensues when the real aunt actually arrives. There’s no need to say any more.

The energy and enthusiasm of the cast was admirable and all six performed together like clockwork.  Jonathan Parish as Jack and Mark Smedley as Charley were great central cogs holding it all together and Harvey Robinson as the posh bloke in a frock inevitably had all the best laughs but he deserved them as his timing was impeccable.

Katherine Senior, who doubles as Kitty and the real aunt Donna Lucia, won the audience over with her exquisite expressions and Kate Sharp, as both Ela and Amy, personified the genteel aspect of the play.

But hats off (or should that be hats off and on and off again) to Matthew Townshend, who played love-struck Spettigue, Brassett, the butler, and Jack’s father Sir Francis Chesney, as he was completely convincing as all three.

The rapid costume changes he delivered as he bounced from one side of the stage to the other had us spinning our heads faster than if we were at a Wimbledon final.

This is definitely an adaptation of the classic worth watching and if this is the sort of energy Creative Cow brings to a production I shall look forward to seeing them again.

The play is on at the Pomegranate Theatre, Chesterfield, until May 11. Go to http://www.chesterfieldtheatres.co.uk for more details about tickets.

It can also be seen at Buxton Opera House on May 31.