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Travel to the Grand… With Your Aunt

Travels With My Aunt

When the lights went up on Travels With My Aunt at The Grand I was a little surprised to see the set was essentially a pub. I wasn’t clear how this was going to reconcile with a journey around the world. And I suppose the answer to that is it didn’t, but it never really mattered during an unusual but generally very absorbing and rewarding production.

For those who are unfamiliar with Graham Greene’s novel, now approaching its half-century, it features the recently retired and very straight-laced bank manager Henry Pulling. He grows dahlias in his garden and otherwise leads a generally unremarkable life. At his mother’s funeral he meets his long lost Aunt Augusta. She is in many ways his polar opposite, and has led a colourful and not entirely lawful existence. She entices him to join her on her trips, initially to Brighton but then latterly Europe and Istanbul on the Orient Express and eventually South America.

There were just four actors involved in the production – Daniel Goode, Jack Hulland, Richard Earl and Katherine Senior. The adaptation by Giles Havergal in one which has won recognition including the Laurence Olivier Award in 1993. Not only did the actors play multiple parts, as is often the case, they also played the same parts and at times they did so simultaneously and frequently in identical costume. Clearly this had the potential to be very confusing, but by and large it generally wasn’t and it was generally well appreciated by the audience.

The first half of the production largely set the scene for the faster paced post-interval section. It was generally slick and well choreographed. A vein of dry humour ran through it, more sophisticated than some of the laughs in the second part which included crude mispronunciation and double entendre gags.

After the interval the plot moved on a lot more quickly. It tackled some big questions about the purpose of human existence and included a twist that was probably foreseeable even for those who haven’t read the book. What was less clear to me as someone who hadn’t read the novel was exactly what happened to the supporting character Wordsworth and why.

I went along to the production not entirely sure what genre it was meant to be, and afterwards I was still unsure as it is a story which defies easy categorisation and the manner in which it was staged added to its ambiguity. It was however absorbing, and this was added to by the high quality of the lighting and the subtle, low key but ultimately beguiling soundtrack. The ensemble cast did not have a weak link; all involved adopt a range of characters in a believable manner.

The revised dates of this run at The Grand mean that you now have the day after this review is published to get along, so time is of the essence. On Saturday there is a matinee at 2pm and an evening performance at 7.30pm.

All tickets for the matinee performance are priced at £14.50, whilst at the evening production 18-26 year olds can get tickets for £12.50, with full price tickets at £20.50. For more information visit blackpoolgrand.co.uk and creativecow.co.uk/travels2016.html

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