What better way to enjoy a glorious summer’s evening with the family, than to watch a performance of Awful Auntie, by Heartbreak Productions at the award-winning Weald & Downland Living Museum.
Awful Auntie is based on David Walliams’ seventh bestselling and much-loved children’s novel and Heartbreak Productions have well and truly brought the show to life for the outdoor stage this summer.
Picnic at the ready and two excited children in tow, we arrived at the Weald & Downland Museum – located in the pretty village of Singleton, 5 miles from Chichester – with high expectations. We were lucky to get a front-row spot, although everyone had a good view due to the 365-degree performance.
Whilst everyone settled in and tucked into their picnics, the small cast of 5 performers walked around and chatted to the audience, laughing and joking with adults and children alike, setting the tone for the evening ahead.
The set was based on a children’s playground, representative of the sense of play in all of David Walliams’ stories.
Before the show started the audience (including any aunties!) were invited to get involved and we practised our “dun dun duns…..” to be shouted after the dramatic scenes, along with our best owl impressions for when Wagner, the Bavarian Owl, made his appearance in the show. We were told to ‘laugh at the funny bits, sympathise at the sad bits but overall to have fun’!
We were given a story synopsis to set the scene. 150 years ago, at Saxby Hall, Lady Saxby gave birth to Alberta. 12 years later twin boys Chester and Herbert arrived and tragically one of the twins went missing, never to be found again. Alberta never liked her little brother Chester and played mean tricks on him and loved to cheat at her favourite game of tiddly winks.
When Lady Saxby passed away, Chester became the new Lord of Saxby Manor. Alberta was jealous and threw a bucket of water on his bride (and the audience!) during their wedding.
The new Lord and Lady Saxby went on to have a baby girl named Stella. They were deliriously happy until one day they went for a drive in their Rolls Royce (simple but effective props, with a twirling black umbrella for the wheels and a round tin lid for the steering wheel) and had a tragic car accident. Stella awoke from a 12-week coma covered in bandages and at the mercy of her Aunt Alberta and her faithful owl Wagner.
Gibbon (the ancient butler of Saxby Hall) was very funny to watch with his stumbling walk and he had the audience in stitches. He pulled a dad from the front row who took the part of ‘Rover’ the dog and was crawling around Saxby Hall on all fours!
The interval gave the audience an opportunity to get some refreshments and enjoy a quick stroll around the stunning historic buildings at the museum.
As the sun set we found out to what extent Awful Auntie went to get the deeds to Saxby Hall, during a dramatic scene involving an axe! Thankfully with the help of Gibbon the butler and a familiar ghost in the cellar, this was not to be. Wagner saved Stella with the help of the audience and their best owl impressions, and he left Awful Auntie in the lake to drown. The story had a happy ending with Saxby Hall declared an orphanage for all and everyone would be one happy family.
I would highly recommend this performance of Awful Auntie in the beautiful setting of the Weald & Downland Museum. It was an adventure story suitable for all ages and was engaging for both adults and children alike. Review by Lindsey Taylor.
If you’d like to experience this wonderful outdoor theatre production for yourself, then it’s not too late as Heartbreak Productions will be back on Friday 26th August at the Weald & Downland Museum. https://www.heartbreakproductions.co.uk/
Alternatively, there are a number of other events taking place at the Weald & Downland Museum this summer including children’s theatre, music and comedy, guaranteed to entertain audiences of all ages. For a full list of events, please see: https://www.wealddown.co.uk/whats-on/