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Brandon Thomas’s neatly crafted 1892 farce must have made him and his heirs a mint before its copyright expired in the 1960s.

But the outright star of this enjoyable revival is designer Paul Farnsworth who has created three gorgeous sets – the spacious Oxford college rooms of upper-class, impecunious student Jack Chesney, the sunny gardens outside and a sumptuous drawing room where the misunderstandings of the day are resolved to the complete satisfaction of almost all concerned.

Undergraduates Jack (Dominic Tighe) and Charley (Benjamin Askew) have fallen for, respectively, Kitty and Amy – but without a respectable chaperone present they can’t declare their love.

The imminent arrival of the eponymous relative seems perfectly timed – until they hear that her passage back from Brazil (“Where the nuts come from”) has been delayed and they persuade fellow student Lord Fancourt Babberley to dress up as the very wealthy widow.

An initially disconcerted and panicking Mathew Horne (from TV’s Gavin & Stacey) has fun cross-dressed in black bonnet and petticoats as he finds himself fought over by both Kitty’s guardian (who is also Amy’s uncle) and Jack’s own pater (excellent Steven Pacey) who feels duty bound to wed the ugly imposter purely to provide for his son.

Jane Asher adds a touch of amused glamour as the real Donna Lucia D’Alvadorez and Ian Talbot’s sprightly production, though never quite hitting high spots of hilarity, confirms the durability of this late Victorian romp.
Louise Kingsley
Menier Chocolate Factory , 53 Southwark Street, SE1 1RU
Tube | London Bridge
Until 10th November
£31.00 (MealDeals £39.50)


Image: Catherine Ashmore


Charley's Aunt review: Menier Chocolate Factory, London
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