Volume 93, Issue 39

Tuesday, November 9, 1999


Insider's heat cools by the last drag

Travels With My Aunt fails to go anywhere

Allstars jump Right Back into it

Travels With My Aunt fails to go anywhere

Gazette file photo
OH. MY. GOD. WE ALL WORE THE SAME SUIT. Now playing at the Grand Theatre, Travels With My Aunt offers up a stellar four man cast.

By Matt Pearson
Gazette Staff

Imagine going to your mother's funeral and meeting an aunt you haven't seen in 55 years. Imagine further that you and this eccentric aunt travel all across the globe, in search of adventure and a final destination. Now imagine yourself sitting in the Grand Theatre, watching intently as this tale unfolds.

Based on the novel by Graham Greene, Travels With My Aunt begins in Southwood, England in 1969. Although the play's ideas have a lot of potential, there are too many oversights plaguing the show, resulting in a sub-standard production.

The sheltered Henry Pulling reunites with his aunt, Augusta Bertram, who swears she hasn't seen him since his baptism. Aunt Augusta convinces Henry to take a trip with her to Brighton and soon the pair are gallivanting across the world, visiting places like Istanbul, Trieste, Argentina and Paraguay.

Their physical journeys are also accompanied by spiritual ones. Aunt Augusta raises questions about Henry's philandering father and the identity of his birth mother, while also re-examining her life's relationships.

The unique blend of physical and emotional travel is intelligent, but the idea is never fully explored. For example, the question of Henry's real mother is never settled. While aunt Augusta makes many allusions that it could be her, this notion is never confirmed or denied, leaving the audience confused and frustrated.

Intriguingly, all of the roles in the show are played by four men, even the outrageous Augusta. Lorne Kennedy is hilarious as the impulsive aunt and Robert Latimer turns in a deft performance as Henry.

While the quartet of actors performed well, the audience had some difficulty relating to their sophisticated humour. There was also a notable change in the energy level between acts, as the lively first act flowed much smoother than the dragging second act.

Set on a bare stage, the show relies on three screens as a backdrop. Place names and pictures are flashed quickly, providing great aid to the audience in keeping up with aunt Augusta and Henry. The effective use of music also helps navigate the crowd through the happy moments (jazz), the sombre moments (classical) and the adventures in South America (Latin American-inspired beats).

Unfortuenately, despite its strengths, Travels With My Aunt lacks the spark which makes theatre fun. Although it contains traces of greatness, the show is dry, confused and somewhat uninspiring. This play is proof that good novels do not necessarily make good plays.

In the end, Travels With My Aunt is one trip even aunt Augusta wouldn't be interested in.

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Copyright The Gazette 1999