Mirror Magazine


A date with Charley’s Aunt
By Ruwanthi Herat Gunaratne
Two devious minds plot to enlist the help of an unassuming heiress to lure two unsuspecting young girls to their university. Want to know more?

‘Charley’s Aunt’, a presentation of the Past Pupils Association of Bishop’s College, is sure to delight the theatre fan’s heart. “Charley’s Aunt is a quaint comedy that is guaranteed to keep you in tears of laughter,” smile Nafisa Amirudeen and Claire de Silva, of the production committee. “The idea came about initially as the PPA wanted to pay tribute to Ms. Irene Wanigaratne, a past pupil who has been a part of the Bishopian stage nearly all her life.” Incidentally ‘Aunty Irene’, as all Bishopians call her, acts as consultant for the show.

Charley and Jack are two young Oxford undergraduates who are far from satisfied with their lives. Their summer holidays are fast disappearing and they are yet to come up with a “cost effective and foolproof” method to get their girlfriends down for the day. Why should that be a problem? Charley’s Aunt is set in Oxford of the past when it was unheard of for ‘respectable’ girls to spend the day with “male friends” without a proper chaperone.

But therein lies the rub. It is impossible if not impractical to enlist the help of a female chaperone if one is a resident student of a university that is unlikely to consider “Chaperone Search” a part of the student counselling programme. Suddenly, thankfully and out of the blue appears a short telegram informing the two that Charley’s Aunt is on her way.

“It is Jack who conjures the initial plan,” grins George Cooke who plays Jack Chesney, “He is a great example of ‘still waters run deep’, he’s the shrewd and calculating one and he carefully puts the idea into Charley’s mind.” With the advent of the telegram the entire scenario changes. The duo decide they will enlist the help of Charley’s Aunt, a rich heiress from South America who is sure to oblige and play the part of the “Female Chaperone”.

It is the perfect solution, or so it seems until a second telegram comes in, announcing that Charley’s Aunt has been unfortunately delayed. “That’s when the fun really starts,” laughs Shanuki de Alwis who plays Amy Spettigue, one of the “unsuspecting young girls”.

“I am the ‘dumb blonde’ of the play, who is completely spaced out, extremely giddy and the ideal character to add to the comic element of the play.” She feels that even though it is a period play, it is easy to interpret Amy in a modern context. “There’s no restriction of movement, except for walking in a ladylike manner. Amy is different to Kitty (played by Minuka de Silva) in nearly every way for she is afraid of their guardian (played by Manoj Singanayagam) but she is not “under pressure” like Kitty. The two girls are very close.”

Charley and Jack know very well that their inability to conjure up an elderly female chaperone will land them in the girls’ bad books. “It will be the second such occasion and all their noble marriage proposals would most certainly be flung out of the window.”

The devious plans are ruined, or so it seems. “That’s when I appear,” laughs Dominic Kellar who plays Lord Fancourt Babberley, another batchmate who conveniently pops in. “Babbs is a fun-loving guy who is an amateur thespian. Jack quickly realizes his worth and promptly casts him as Charley’s Aunt. It is a very advantageous position to be in. But during the latter part of the play Babbs’ position is not to be envied.”

Add to this muddle, the arrival of Jack’s father, a retired Army General, fresh from India. “I’m a nice old British Army chap who is completely and totally oblivious to everything that is going on,” says Sir Francis Chesney played by Shanaka Amarasinghe. “He’s a distinguished gentleman capable of ruining all the plans that are in place.” That is until Jack’s mind begins its dance once again and decides “it’s high time that his poor father got a break and hitched himself to a rich bride.”

Past pupils of the school play all the female roles and the male stars count some connection to the school. “I was very offended when I was not taken into Bishop’s College, as I would have been the fourth generation there,” grins Shanaka.

Charley’s Aunt (Dona Louise), the centrepiece of the entire catastrophe does finally put in an appearance. “She is a very humorous person who goes along with the farce,” says Swasha Perera. “She is very formal, very English and is the one person who brings everyone together. The only difficulty for me has been to play a 45-year-old woman!”
How has it been so far? “It’s been a different experience – the script is great and it is different to the kind of play that we usually act in,” they chorus, “But there’s a lot of chemistry and we’ve all worked together before. Though it is a period play, it’s not too stiff in word and deed.”

It’s complete entertainment that you simply cannot afford to miss! The cast also includes Kisholi de Mel (Ella), Andrè David (Charley Wykeham) and Dulika Jayamanne as Brasset the Butler. Costumes are by Jojo de Silva whilst makeup is by Buddhi Galappaththi and Shyami and Dilani de Silva. Oosha Sarvanamuttu handles the choreography and Ranjith Karunaratne the sets. ABC Radio Network is the electronic media sponsor while The Sunday Times is the print media sponsor.

October 4 and 5 at the Bishop’s College Auditorium at 7:00 p.m. Box plan and tickets available at the auditorium.

Back to Top  Back to Mirror Magazine  

Copyright © 2001 Wijeya Newspapers Ltd. All rights reserved.
Contact us: | Editorial | | Webmaster|