Travels With My Aunt

by Giles Havergal, adapted from the novel by Graham Greene

Travels With My Aunt had 4 performances over 7 years ago (between the 15th of July 2015 and the 18th of July 2015) at The Riverhouse Barn

176th Production. Graham Greene is probably best known for works like ‘Brighton Rock’, ‘The Third Man’ and ‘Our Man in Havana’. For fun he wrote ‘Travels With My Aunt’ in 1969 which in 1972 was made into a film starring Maggie Smith, suitably aged as Aunt Augusta and for which she received an Oscar nomination.

Henry Pulling, retired bank manager and keen dahlia grower from Southwood, meets his long lost eccentric and glamorous Aunt Augusta at his mother’s funeral. Up until now Henry has led a relatively quiet and sheltered life but things are about to radically change. Augusta is a lady with a shady past and whose moral compass is not always set to north. As the two become acquainted Henry gets pulled into Augusta’s world of travel, adventure and endless possibilities. Spurred on by Augusta’s wanderlust, sense of adventure and search for old flame Mr Visconti the two travel extensively across Europe and into South America meeting a colourful array of people and finding themselves mixed up in some dubious and often compromising situations. Augusta and Henry eventually locate and go into the ‘import-export’ business with Mr Visconti, finally settling down, living life in the moment, in Paraguay.

First performed at the Citizen’s Theatre, Glasgow in 1989 and more recently revived in 2013 at the Menier Chocolate Factory with Iain Mitchell, Jonathan Hyde, Gregory Gudgeon and David Bamber to some critical acclaim, this fast paced, witty and faithful adaptation by Giles Havergal was originally written for four men playing all 24 characters regardless of age, gender or ethnic background. The play allows the director a great deal of flexibility so it can be done with a larger mixed gender cast (for example between 6 - 8). This is an ensemble piece and, to keep the fast moving almost comic strip nature of the play, with the possible exception of Augusta, those cast would ideally take on more than one character in the play.

A review of the production can be read at http://www.essentialsurrey.co.uk/theatre/review-travels-with-my-aunt-at/

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Henry Pulling and Zachary 'Wordsworth', Wolf - Paul Foster

Heny - Mid 50’s (Act 1 & 2) – shared between at least 2 actors. Henry Pulling is an unmarried, short-sighted, retired bank manager from Southwood. Up until the start of the play he has led a relatively sheltered uneventful life and has rarely travelled outside of England. He is a keen gardener, particularly loves dahlias, and has inherited his Father’s love of literature. Henry’s life is completely transformed after meeting Augusta at his Mother’s funeral where she drops the bombshell that his Mother is not his natural Mother and his Father was a womaniser. This meeting completely transforms Henry’s life as he joins Augusta on her globe-trotting adventures, gets mixed up with all kinds of illegal activities and by the end of the play has been completely assimilated into Augusta’s somewhat shady world. Henry is both narrator and participant in the play.

Zachary - 40 - 50’s (Act 1 & 2) Originally from Sierra Leone, Zachary Wordsworth is Augusta’s current ‘friend’ after they met whilst he was working at the Grenada Palace Cinema in Tooting. He is in love with Augusta often referring to her as his ‘bebi gel’ and will do anything for her. He travels to the ends of the earth to do her bidding and is heartbroken when she casts him aside to be with Mr Visconti. Augusta is undoubtedly very fond of Wordsworth who she refers to as “a very gentle sweet strong person”. He is known by the police and suspected of being a small time drug dealer.

Wolf - non-speaking but plenty of ‘barking’ and actions (Act 1) Wolf is the rather large Irish wolfhound belonging to Frau General and appears in the flashback when Mr Visconti is fleeing from Rome in 1944. This is a lovely comic moment as he barks furiously and clambers all over the car generally making a nuisance of himself.

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Aunt Augusta Bertram - Gillian Smithies

Mid 70’s (Act 1 & 2) Augusta Bertram is a lady with a shady past. With bright red hair and dressed not unlike the late Queen Mary, she has travelled extensively, lived life to the full and continues to do so. For the past 60 years or more she has always had a ‘friend’, the most recent being Wordsworth who she later leaves for Mr Visconti, the true love of her life. Augusta is very resourceful and has an interesting view of the law - “I have never planned anything illegal in my life. How could I when I have never read any of the laws and have no idea what they are?” Augusta is an eccentric and highly entertaining person with some colourful stories to tell. Her moral compass is not always set to north but after a while her values and the code by which she lives by seem to make perfect sense.

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Mr Visconti and Detective Sergeant Sparrow and Spanish Gentleman, Traveller, Richard Pulling, Customer in Pub, Turkish Policeman - Ian Thomas

Mr Visconti - 70 - 80s (Act 1 & 2) One of life’s survivors Mr Visconti (aka Mr Izquierdo) is the love of Augusta’s life. Augusta can forgive him almost anything including absconding with her money in the past. He is a resourceful, charismatic (albeit short, bald, fat with missing teeth), Italian career criminal, currently living in South America, and wanted by Interpol regarding an important piece of art work he acquired during the second world war whilst he was working as an art dealer for the Nazi’s. In Act 1 we see a flashback of Mr Visconti’s escape from Rome in 1944 dressed as a priest. Mr Visconti and Augusta decide to marry at the end of the play and along with Henry they have their own ‘import-export’ business.

DS Sparrow - 30 - 60s (Act 1) Appears at intervals throughout Act 1 and has a keen interest in Augusta’s past, Wordsworth and her connection to General Abdul. He conducts a very thorough search of Augusta’s flat which he has obviously had under surveillance. Despite outward appearances DS Sparrow is most definitely a man on a mission.

Richard Pulling - non-speaking but plenty of ‘barking’ and actions (Act 1) Wolf is the rather large Irish wolfhound belonging to Frau General and appears in the flashback when Mr Visconti is fleeing from Rome in 1944. This is a lovely comic moment as he barks furiously and clambers all over the car generally making a nuisance of himself.

Spanish Gentleman - any age (Act 2) Described as “rabbit-nosed man with a long drooping moustache” he meets Henry on the river-boat in South America. His hobby is reading hands (palms) and he advises Henry that his travels are nearly over. Only speaks Spanish which James O’Toole translates.

Turkish Policeman - any age (Act 1) non-speaking Accompanies Colonel Hakim and searches Henry and Augusta’s hotel room.

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Miss Barbara Keene and Hatty and Miss Dorothy 'Dolly' Patterson and Frau General Schmidt - Linda Russell

Barbara - approx 30 - 40s (Act 1 & 2) Reserved, unmarried daughter of the late Sir Alfred Keene she and her father were wealthy clients of Henry’s at the bank. They continued their acquaintanceship after Sir Alfred died and Henry had retired from the bank and prior to Miss Keene’s departure to South Africa to live with some distant cousins. Miss Keene and Henry are obviously very fond of each other but lack the courage and passion to take it further. Their relationship is largely conducted through a series of letters which reveal how travel changes them and what they both want from life.

Hatty - 70s (Act 1) Proprietor of ‘Hatty’s Teapot – Fortunes Told’, Hatty is an old friend and business associate of Augusta’s from ‘The Doggies Church’. They haven’t met for over 40 years when Augusta and Henry pay her a visit on their trip to Brighton. Dressed in a black evening dress with jangling jet objects Hatty reminisces about the good old days and also reads both Augusta and Henry’s tea leaves foretelling of recent past events and the adventures to come.

Dolly - 60 - 70s (Act 1) Miss Patterson meets Henry and Augusta whilst at Richard Pulling’s graveside in Boulogne which she has visited once a month for the past 40 years. Miss Patterson still loves Richard and was with him when he died on their day trip to France. She and the concierge from the hotel were the only ones to attend the funeral and she has lived in France, even during the war where she did ‘various things’, and has remained constant to his memory ever since.

Frau Schmidt - middle aged (Act 1) Intimidating German client of Mr Visconti’s fake priest she seeks absolution for her sins as she flees Rome in 1944 threatening to have him shot if he doesn’t carry out her request. She has access to a car and her driver is more afraid of her than her husband.

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Lucinda ‘Tooley' and Italian Girl and Yolanda and Girl in Jodhpurs and Traveller and Receptionist - Ellie Usher

Lucinda - 18 -20s (Act 1) American student of English literature, Lucinda ‘Tooley’ befriends Augusta and Henry whilst they are travelling through Europe to Istanbul on the Orient Express. Her artist and unsavoury boyfriend, Julian, has left her because she might be pregnant. She hopes that the pregnancy is a false alarm and she can be reunited with him in Istanbul before travelling further afield to Kathmandu. Tooley introduces Henry to his first puff of ‘pot’ which she acquired from Wordsworth in Paris. After getting ‘the curse’ her demeanour changes and she once again “becomes one of the young”.

Italian Girl - young/20s (Act 1) Appears in flashback to Rome 1944 when she mistakes Mr Visconti for an actual priest and asks him to hear her confession as she is “in mortal sin” due to her ‘lost purity’ entertaining the German officers.

Yolanda - 14 – young (Act 2) Yolanda is the beautiful daughter of the Chief of Police in Paraguay who meets Henry at Augusta and Mr Visconti’s house warming party. A ‘gentle and obedient child’ she speaks very good English and shares Henry’s love of poetry and literature.

Girl in Jodhpurs - 20-30s (Act 1) Customer in the bar at the ‘Crown and Anchor’ pub, she obviously doesn’t like cricket.

Hotel Receptionist - any age/gender (Act 1) Polite and efficient hotel receptionist at the luxurious Pera Palace Hotel, Istanbul.

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Colonel Hakim, Policeman, Vicar, London Cabbie, Customer in pub, Bodyguard, Douanier in Paris, Bank Manager, German Officer/Driver, Captain, Taxi Driver, Gaoler, Workman and Chief of Police - Graham Botterill

Colonel Hakin - 40 – 60s (Act 1) Colonel Hakim of the Turkish police visits Henry and Augusta at their Hotel in Istanbul which his men proceed to search. With a reserved air of authority he is polite and respectful but at the same time quietly determined to find out more about Augusta’s financial affairs and connection to General Abdul and Mr Visconti. He suggests that they should both leave Istanbul and insists on sending a police car to ‘escort’ them to their plane.

Policeman - any age (Act 1) DS Sparrow’s side kick on his second visit to Augusta’s flat. Not a man who appreciates art and collectibles he is very well informed about the case and the criminal activities of Mr Visconti who he refers to as a ‘viper’ that being the only description held by Interpol.

Vicar - any age (Act 1) Presides at the funeral of Henry’s late mother.

Bodyguard - any age (Act 2) non-speaking Works for Mr Visconti in Paraguay

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Henry Pulling and James O'Toole - Marc Anderson

Heny - Mid 50’s (Act 1 & 2) – shared between at least 2 actors. Henry Pulling is an unmarried, short-sighted, retired bank manager from Southwood. Up until the start of the play he has led a relatively sheltered uneventful life and has rarely travelled outside of England. He is a keen gardener, particularly loves dahlias, and has inherited his Father’s love of literature. Henry’s life is completely transformed after meeting Augusta at his Mother’s funeral where she drops the bombshell that his Mother is not his natural Mother and his Father was a womaniser. This meeting completely transforms Henry’s life as he joins Augusta on her globe-trotting adventures, gets mixed up with all kinds of illegal activities and by the end of the play has been completely assimilated into Augusta’s somewhat shady world. Henry is both narrator and participant in the play.

James - 40 – 60s (Act 2) Currently based at the Embassy in Paraguay, O’Toole works for the CIA but when first asked says that he is in South America conducting ‘social research’. Originally from Philadelphia he is self assured, well travelled and speaks several languages. We also later establish that he is Tooley’s absent father. O’Toole first meets Henry on the riverboat to Asuncion and the two strike up a friendship which later proves useful when Henry is imprisoned. O’Toole is on the trail of Mr Visconti and the missing art work from WW2 and warns Henry about the people his Aunt are mixed up with and advises him to return to England.

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Director - Michelle Blake

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Stage Manager and Set Assistant - Clare Pinnock

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Sound - Ian Santry

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Set Design and Construction - John Godliman

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Lighting - Nigel Greenaway

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Lighting - Carolyn Menteith

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Wardrobe - Anna Foster

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Continuity - Jill Payne

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Publicity - Frankie Godliman

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Publicity - Nick Lund

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Flyer and Programme Design - Anne Nunn

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Photography - Alan Bostock (www.photoeyes.biz)

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Set Design and Realisation - Simon Waller

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Set Assistant - Emma Dudley

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Set Assistant - Bill Payne

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Set Assistant - Linda Russell

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Set Assistant - Ian Thomas

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Set Assistant - Liz Thomas

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Set Assistant - Jenny Waller