Elderly aunt is still funny.
Charley's Aunt at Newcastle Theatre Royal until Saturday
We've come a long way since the phenomenally successful first night of Brandon Thomas's farce Charley's Aunt in 1892, and there's no denying that in many ways the play is now a theatrical chestnut.
Its central situation is rooted in the days when nice young gals couldn't possibly visit equally nice young chaps in their rooms in Oxford without a respectable female chaperone being present. But Jack and Charles, gentlemen to their fingertips, are most awfully keen to declare their passions for Kitty and Amy while the girls' tyrannical guardian is out of the way.
Luckily Charley is expecting a visit from his rich, widowed aunt Donna Lucia. And when she doesn't turn up, it's a mere moment's work to persuade their chum Lord Fancourt Babberly to pretend to be the aunt.
The ensuing confusion need scarcely be imagined, and to say that this new production fulfils all the expectations is not to insult it for want of originality. This is a classic of farce, beautifully designed to be served up to a fresh audience without damaging its original flavour.
Stephen Tompkinson hits just the right sort of Bertie Wooster note in the central role ( a silly ass who is nonetheless made of the right stuff through and through. Never for a moment does he convince anyone that he is an elderly lady ( he's playing out the game because faint heart never won fair lady.
And how pleasant to find a three-act play with two proper intervals. Charley's aunt would have approved of that extra visit to the bar.