TRAVELS WITH MY AUNT
by Graham Greene adapted by Giles Havergal.
Royal and Derngate (Royal auditorium) To 15 May 2010.
Mon-Sat 7.45pm Mat Thu & Sat 2.30pm.
Audio-described 11 May.
BSL Signed 12 May.
Runs 2hr 20min One interval.
TICKETS: 01604 624811.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 6 May.
Joyous express journey through late-life Greeneland.
Travels is one of Graham Greene’s late novels and largely comic, though increasingly dipping into his familiar shadowy world of espionage and guilt. It was turned into a play by Giles Havergal, with the deftness, wit and theatrical perception of someone whose three decades-long Artistic Directorship at Glasgow Citizens’ was a wonder of modern theatre. And this is a smashing production; director Gary Sefton’s name deserves to stand alongside those of author and adapter.
Even at 74, the aunt who comes into Henry Pulling’s life is still active amid the web of deceit and crime she’s indulged in lifelong. Retired banker Henry is pulled in his mid-fifties from a cautious, prudent existence, his journeys with her going both geographically and morally further afield. Between them Havergal and Sefton disguise that much of the first half is retrospective, setting up pasts to influence the second act’s present.
Havergal’s chief device is to split Henry between four actors, who also play the various dubious types he meets. Dragged into a wider world, his certainties start to fragment. Havergal’s premiere was played on an ordered garden, where growing dahlias was Henry’s life. In Northampton, designer Philip Witcomb opts contrastingly for higgledy-piggledy piles of luggage-like compartments.
These give a sense of unsteadiness and transience, increasingly apt for the action. In which they play their part: a trans-Europe train journey identifies stations by labels revealed inside passing cases. And compartments open up, briefly revealing characters, or the prison cell where three Henries seem simultaneously confined.
Eventually this set forms the doors and windows of a South American mansion where the plot reaches its climax – the shafts of Richard Godin’s lighting menacingly piercing the slats of blinds.
Havergal’s mid-point being where Henry begins taking an active role in travel, the second act is more forward-propelled until matters come together with some surprisingly serious goings-on in the mansion. Each actor, contrasted in size, shape and voice, covers aspects of a Henry finding himself, like life, more complex than he’d thought, as well as etching-in the contrasted people around him at various stages of this riveting, hurtling production.
Actor G: Stuart Angell.
Actor T: James Duke.
Actor H: Peter Forbes.
Actor V: Miltos Yerolemou.
Director: Gary Sefton.
Designer: Philip Witcomb.
Lighting: Richard Godin.
Sound: Emma Laxton.
Choreographer: Jill Hydes.
Dialect coach: Mary Howland.