Big Sis has always liked reading, but it wasn’t until she discovered David Walliam’s fantastical fiendish tales that her passion for books was well and truly ignited.
I’d often walk past her room and hear her giggling inside as she was transported into the wonderfully warped world of Walliams’ imagination. She went from half-heartedly reading titles to polishing them off in just a few sittings, giving me a chapter-by-chapter account as she went.
So when I heard that one of her favourite books – Awful Auntie – had been brought to life as a touring theatre production, I knew we just had to check it out. Then, as luck would have it (or maybe it was fate..?) we were invited to attend the media preview at the Waterside Theatre, Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire.
When I told Big Sis, she literally screamed with excitement, then she gasped: ‘Mummy, I can wear my Awful Auntie outfit!’ she squealed.
We’d bought it for World Book Day, but – as was the case across most of the UK – school cancelled that day after Snowmaggedon descended. Whereas Lil Sis’s school had a ‘do-over’ the following week…
… Big Sis’s never did, so her costume went unworn, until now.
We arrived at the Waterside Theatre late in the afternoon. ‘Wow, you look great!’ the ticket lady exclaimed, and Big Sis beamed.
The lobby began to fill up with parents and excited kids, so we went to find out seats and settle in before the show began.
When the lights began to dim she clutched my arm. ‘That’s Stella,’ she whispered, as the first scene revealed a bandaged girl lying in a bed. ‘Remember I told you all about her?!’ And from that moment on, she was transfixed.
The story is set in 1933 and focuses on 12-year-old Stella, who wakes from a coma to discover her parents, Lord and Lady Saxby, have been killed in a terrible car accident, and she is now in the care of her Aunt Alberta.
But is Aunt Alberta really interested in nursing Stella back to health, or does she have a more sinister plan in mind..?
I’ve always thought it must be almost impossible to cram all the detail of a book into a two-hour stage show, but I was really impressed by how clever and quick-paced Awful Auntie was.
Stella was smart and sparky, and Aunt Alberta was delightfully diabolical. The Saxby’s bumbling elderly butler Gibbons provided plenty of giggles, while Stella’s ethereal sidekick, Soot, provided the heart of the show.
The set is ingeniously designed to be switched around in just seconds, so you don’t get distracted or pulled out of the story, and the tricks they’ve used to show different scenes and perspectives are ridiculously clever.
Even though I’d never read the books myself, it was easy to pick up the plot… but there were still some fun little twists and turns along the way. Without giving anything away… the prank scene is THE BEST!
The girls were mesmerised, and when the final curtain fell Big Sis had the biggest smile on her face. ‘Mummy that was amazing!‘ she announced. As soon as we got home she grabbed her dog-eared copy of Awful Auntie and began to read it all over again.
Thanks, Aunt Alberta – you may be pretty awful, but you’re also VERY entertaining.
Check for other venues performing Awful Auntie HERE.
• read about our trip to Peter Pan’s Neverland, at the Waterside Theatre Christmas Pantomime
• our press tickets were provided for the purpose of review