The Birmingham Stage Company’s adaption of David Walliams’s Awful Auntie is a new addition to the flora of children’s books adapted for the stage. The production stars a colourful cast of characters each more hilariously ridiculous than the last one. The actors do a great job of bringing the story to its heightened life. The energy between Stella, played by Georgina Leonidas, and Soot, played by Ashley Cousins does a great job of driving the story along. The charming and relatable characters play well off each other and provide a good balance for the story. The production uses the stunning stage design of Jaqueline Trousdale in an effective manner, although the portable pieces are moved around excessively. Complimenting the set is the sound design of Nick Sagar which together heighten the world of the play and provide a platform for children’s imagination to take flight.
The story does, however, contain some concerning messages for a play meant for young children. Such as the notion that boys ‘just know these things’ in the context of knowing how to drive, and the main heroine - although intended to empower young girls - does not come up with a single useful idea. It is concerning that she could not have figured out anything without help from Soot. A long period of time is spent making fart jokes at the expense of Soot, with a lecture about politeness not too eloquently pushed into the dialogue. There are dozens of missed opportunities to teach children about more important things such as compassion and tolerance. The play is two hours long which may prove to be a challenge for the younger part of the audience to follow. Awful Auntie is, although slightly problematic, an entertaining, colourful and well-produced production. - Disa Andersen