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Awful Auntie, Lighthouse Poole

SUSPENSE and mystery combined with comedy silliness as Birmingham Stage Company’s adaptation of David Walliams’ Awful Auntie arrived on stage at Lighthouse Poole.

The production, based on the bestselling book, combined a fabulous cast with a masterfully designed set and brilliant use of puppetry for the fast-paced and at times terrifying adventure.

The heroine of the story is 12-year-old Stella Saxby, heiress to Saxby Hall. When she sets off for a day out with her parents, she has no idea her life is perilous danger. She is awoken three months later to discover her parents have died in a terrible car accident and she has been left in the care of her awful Aunt Alberta.

Awful Auntie by Birmingham Stage Company (picture: Mark Douet)
Awful Auntie by Birmingham Stage Company (picture: Mark Douet)

But not everything her aunt tells her is true and Stella quickly discovers that she could share her parents’ fate unless she can figure out a way to outmanoeuvre her Aunt Alberta.

However, the plucky heroine was not alone, thanks to support from the bonkers butler Gibbons and a friendly ghost called Soot; who becomes a steadfast ally.

Appearing on stage for the first time was Birmingham Stage Company founder Neal Foster as the equally comical and sinister Aunt Alberta. Annie Cordoni was a determined Stella and alongside her Matthew Allen was a delight as Soot the ghost.

The brilliantly constructed multi-level set represented the stately home with staircases, hidden doors, fire places and multiple entrance and exit points, setting the scene as the small cast appeared in scenes through the mansion and grounds.

The use of puppetry was brilliantly executed – particularly when Stella and Alberta became puppets to appear in a rooftop scene. Credit must also go to Emily Essery, the wonderful puppeteer behind Wagner the owl.

For a children’s story Awful Auntie was at times fairly dark, with my 10-year-old admitting she was a bit frightened in parts of the production. However, there were also plenty of moments of silly comedy, which led to peals of laughter from the young audience. In fact, my daughter loved the show so much – she is now reading the book!

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