After a moderately successful career as a bank manager, Henry Pulling is looking forward to a retirement spent tending to his dahlias – a fittingly dull end for his entirely uneventful life. But when his mother’s funeral reunites him with his aunt Augusta, an eccentric septuagenarian whose old age disguises a history of scandal and intrigue, it turns out that Henry’s retirement will not be as quiet as he had hoped.
So begins Travels With My Aunt, a new play based on the novel of the same name by Graham Greene, and adapted for the stage by Giles Havergal. The play is a fast-paced journey that sees Henry, whose life had never drawn him away from England prior to his run-in with his aunt, following her around the world, to Paris, Istanbul and eventually to South America. Along the way, he meets a cast of unforgettable characters, uncovers secrets about his own past, and finds himself unwittingly wrapped up in an international smuggling plot with a criminal being hunted by the CIA.
Travels With My Aunt is performed very uniquely, with each actor switching between roles, sometimes within a single breath, and even occasionally all playing the role of the narrator simultaneously. The actors manage the transformations seamlessly, indicating each new character with a simple gesture or a change in accent. The choreography of how the actors move together onstage is flawless, and is complemented by the set, which manages to depict settings as varied as Henry’s non-descript London home and a Paraguayan prison cell with equal ease. All of these elements combine harmoniously, resulting in a delightful and fun performance that kept the audience laughing the whole night long.
Travels With My Aunt is playing at Vertigo Theatre (Calgary) until April 6.
By Sara Elizabeth Taylor
Photos: Benjamin Laird Arts & Photo