I’ve been pretty lucky with my aunties. My mum alone had 15 sisters and we get along famously. That said, I’ve known a couple of awful aunties in my time (not blood relatives, but in Nigeria, we call almost every senior associate ‘auntie’ or ‘uncle’). Still, not one of them has ever been quite so awful as David Walliams’ Awful Auntie. She really is wicked, and I don’t mean cool.
In fact, she’s most likely a murderess. That’s what our intrepid heroine Stella (Georgina Leonidas, of Harry Potter and Deathly Hallows movies fame) discovers in this deliciously malevolent tale, set in an old English country manor. Stella wakes up in bed, bandaged from neck to toe, with no memory of what happened. Her auntie tells her that her parents have been in a major accident and that she’s been in a coma for months.
But things are definitely not what they seem, and soon her auntie’s lies unravel like Stella’s bandages. It becomes a fight for survival, as Stella tries to solve the mystery of her missing parents and outwit her awful auntie. The rotten relative will stop at nothing to get her hands on the deeds to Saxby House.
Awful Auntie Alberta and her bird of prey pal, Wagner, turn the rattly old manor into a death trap. Thankfully, Stella finds help from a ghost named Soot (Ashley Cousins). Together, they devise a plan that might just keep Stella alive to see her 13th birthday.
Birmingham Stage Company, the team behind David Walliams’ Gangsta Granny and Horrible Histories Live, have put together another ripping good show for ages 7 and over. It’s a dark, dark story so approach with care, if your younger ones are sensitive. There are plenty of references to death and torture, along with some visuals to make your hair stand on end.
Awful Auntie Alberta is a shocker, played with gusto by Richard James. ‘Is that the Dame?’ Jed asked me, when Awful Auntie trotted onto the stage and I said ‘yeah, pretty much’. She’s a hugely entertaining baddie, who got both claps and panto boos at the end.
We also had fun with doddery old butler Gibbon (Harry Sutherland), who is several apples short of a fruit basket. There’s clever use of revolving sets and puppets, especially the expressive Bavarian owl. Plus nods to everyone from Sherlock Holmes to Roald Dahl, who’s clearly a big inspiration for David Walliams. The story is engaging from start to finish, exploring themes not only of family and friendship, but of the art of growing up and still believing in magic.
We laughed, we gasped, we loved it. At the premiere of Awful Auntie, we wound up sitting with good friend Vicki at Honest Mum and her family. Vicki found it ‘brilliant but really dark’, while her eldest Oliver (8) said it was great, although a bit different from the book, which he said had some even darker moments!
David Walliams himself popped up on stage at the end, to thank the cast and crew. The globally-acclaimed author and comedian got massive cheers and he couldn’t resist a timely joke.
‘Do you want to know who the next Prime Minister is? Me!’ It was laugh-out-loud funny but it also brought us crashing back to Brexit reality and the current ‘deal or no deal’ shambles. Now that truly is awful, auntie.
David Walliams’ Awful Auntie (Babes Review)
Jed, age 9
‘Awful Auntie was very very evil, all the actors were very good. I liked Stella and Soot, they were very into their characters and they were very funny. Gibbon was very funny too, like when Auntie Alberta asked for a roast chicken, he served a real chicken without plucking it or anything!
I felt sad for Stella, how she’d lost both of her parents. I thought it was going to be sad but it turned out to be a happy ending. The moral of the story is – don’t always trust your aunts! I liked how David Walliams came in at the end. I would rate Awful Auntie 4 and a half stars. It’s best for ages 7, because there are some pretty scary bits but not too scary.’
David Walliams’ Awful Auntie is at Bloomsbury Theatre, 15 Gordon Street, London, WC1H 0AH (Euston Square/Euston tube/rail, Warren St tube). Age guidance 5+ (we recommend 7+). Varying daily shows at 10.30am & 1.30pm, 11am & 2.30pm, 2.30pm & 6.30pm, 7pm, 2.30pm & 7pm; £24.50/premium £31.50/concs £18.50/full price family of 4 ticket £90 (Dec 12-Jan 5)