The actress chatted to Love London Love Culture’s Emma Clarendon about Birmingham Stage’s adaptation of David Walliams’ ‘Awful Auntie’, playing at the Bloomsbury Theatre from the 12th December.
Hi thank you so much for talking to me. For those not familiar with ‘Awful Auntie’ could you explain a bit more about what the story is about? Hey! So the story is set in the great Saxby hall, home to Stella her parents and an old butler named Gibbon. But after a tragic car accident Stella is orphaned and in a coma, and as the only heir, she is now the owner of the hall. Aunt Alberta claims she has been taking good care of Stella whilst she was in a coma but Stella is very smart however, and her instincts tell her maybe Aunt Alberta, with her great Bavarian mountain owl henchman, who seems insistent on finding the deeds to the hall, shouldn’t be be trusted. She decides she must escape and the following takes you on her journey of survival through the rooms and chimneys of Saxby hall all with the help from a ghost!
What did you think of the story when you first read it? I really enjoyed it. I had read the script first and when I got the job the first thing I did was read the book. Even though they are children’s books I found myself really invested in the characters. They reminded me so much of the Roald Dahl books I read as a kid. I loved The Twits and this reminded me of that with the slightly darker story line. I love that this has a gothic twist and is set in huge creaking mansion. I was excited to bring Stella alive!
What can audiences expect from Neal Foster’s production? For those who have read the book you will not be disappointed! Neal Foster’s adaptation stays true to the book and I really feel we bring Saxby Hall alive with an incredible set, costume, music and lighting design and cast.
Could you tell me a bit more about your character Stella and what she is like to play? Stella is really smart and has a strong moral compass. She knows what is right and wrong and even in times when she is scared she has the strength to tell her Aunt Alberta when she’s wrong. She is compassionate, even after all the terrible things her aunt does she always wants to give her a second chance. Some might say a bit naive! But at 12 (nearly 13 as she points out!) she knows about forgiveness and has a good heart. She’s so much fun to play especially when her cheeky side is brought out playing a few tricks on Alberta!
Have you a favourite moment in the show? It’s hard to pick just one! There are so many elements to the show that I enjoy. You follow Stella around the whole show so I never leave the stage and I’m the only character who interacts with everyone so that’s nice as each scene is different. The set is incredible. We have four towers that move in and out and spin and within those, doors, ladders and chimneys we can crawl up. We also have a car chase that is a lot of fun. Though I actually do drive the car on stage so whilst it is immense fun, early on in the tour I had to keep a real eye out to not hit the set! (Or another actor for that matter!).
Why do you think that David Walliams’s stories are as popular as stage productions? I think they are so popular for the same reason the books are. They are fun! And it’s something you can enjoy with the whole family. I read the books and loved them, so I can see why parents enjoy reading and sharing these stories with their kids. We’ve had lovely feedback from parents to say they enjoyed the show as much as their children! The characters and stories lend themselves so well to be created on stage. And Birmingham Stage have such a talented creative team, which has also ensured its success. It’s really engaging and it’s because the production value is so high. Like I’ve said before the set and the costumes, the music and the lighting all bring Saxby hall alive.
By Emma Clarendon
Awful Auntie will play at the Bloomsbury Theatre from the 12th December until the 5th January 2019. To book tickets visit: https://lovelondonloveculture.tixuk.com/london-theatre/kids/awful-auntie