The cornerstone of the Brandon Thomas comedy Charley’s Aunt is the actor playing the title character – if he gets it right then the audience is in for a lot of laughs.
Thankfully the Chatsworth Players turned to one of their founding members, Peter Wilmot, to take on the role of Lord Fancourt Babberley, (or Babs, as he’s affectionately known) reluctantly dressing in women’s clothes to impersonate the said aunt to help out his two chums.
He has perfect comedic timing and doesn’t go completely over the top with the drag-act. He gives a thoroughly memorable performance.
The audience at the wonderful Chatsworth Theatre, at Chatsworth House, loved him and he deserved the applause he received on the first night.
The farce is a humorous romp involving a case of mistaken identity in a bygone era (it was written in 1891) and concentrates on Babs, and his two friends Jack and Charley who have fallen in love and want to propose to the women before their guardian whisks them off to Scotland. They invite the girls to lunch on the pretext of meeting Charley’s wealthy aunt from Brazil (where the nuts come from). Unfortunately at the last minute she cancels, sending the men into a spin.
Desperate to see the girls (who won’t visit if there’s no chaperone), they force Babs into impersonating the aunt. With the arrival of the real aunt and the attempted seduction of the fake aunt by an elderly gold-digger chaos ensues.
There is plenty of fun to be had from the tangled mess and of course it all ends happily ever after.
The Chatsworth Players, directed by Lindsay Jackson, chose an extremely creditable cast for this show and they all gave a polished performance.
Danny Washington’s facial expressions as the hapless Charley were a joy. It was almost as if he was a real toff. And Fred Rolland was superb as Brassett, the put-upon servant who reacts with bemused cynicism to the foibles of the higher class.
The rest of the cast are Alicia Bloundele as Ela, Alicia Hill as Amy, Chris Gale as Jack, Jill Scott as Donna Lucia, Jonathan White as Sir Francis Chesney, Kate Stuart as Kitty and Melvyn Osborne as Spettigue.
The play can be seen at Chatsworth Theatre until Saturday at 7.30pm each evening. For tickets go to http://www.chatsworthplayers.com