Previewed 10 January 2003, Opened 14 January 2003, Closed 26 April 2003 at the Wyndham's Theatre in London
Morris Panych's new comedy Auntie and Me in London starring Alan Davies and Margaret Tyzack.
Kemp rushes to the sick bed of his frail Aunt anticipating a swift funeral... and a guaranteed inheritance. But as the weeks roll by, Auntie doesn't seem to be on a very tight schedule... This darkly comic play with superb plot twists is a funny and touching tale of a strange and fragile friendship.
The cast for Auntie and Me in London stars Alan Davies as 'Kemp' and 'Margaret Tyzack as 'Auntie Grace'. Best known for playing TV's Jonthan Creek, this is Alan Davies' West End theatre debut. Directed by Anna Mackmin with designs by Hayden Griffin, lighting by Andy Phillips and sound by Paul Arditti. This production transfers to London's West End following a successful season at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival when it featured Alan Davies and Marcia Warren.
When this production opened Paul Taylor in the Independent thought that, "resembling an eerie puppet (imagine Pinocchio grown up and now a middle-ranking banker), Alan Davies skilfully plays an emotional nerd of a businessman who leaves his job in the City to visit the estranged dying aunt he has not seen since his early adolescence." Michael Billington in the Guardian wrote that "fortunately, Alan Davies, who talks virtually uninterrupted, has a sympathetic stage presence: with his profusion of hair and ssecretive smiles, he has a little-boy-lost quality that overcomes the contradictions of a character who is really a stand-up comic in sheep's clothing," concluding that "despite Anna Mackmin's lively direction, this extended sitcom is thin gruel for a night out." Alastair Macaulay in the Financial Times commented that "when I say that Davies is scarcely an actor, I mean that his capacity for expression (physical and vocal) is very limited. But he finds ever more ways of using it. More than 95 per cent of the lines in Auntie & Me are spoken by him but that's no problem. He keeps you in suspense, takes you by surprise, lets the comedy of the play slowly grow to a climax and in turn lets the pathos grow." Benedict Nightingale in the Times praised it as being a "hilariously gloomy two-hander... the play doesn't go deep, but it's deftly written and ably acted by a drolly despairing Alan Davies and by Margaret Tyzack... it also boasts one of the most surprising yet logical twists of plot now on offer in London - but of that I must reveal nothing." Charles Spencer in the Daily Telegraph said: "Imagine a cross between Samuel Beckett and a mouthy stand-up comic and you will get some idea of the Canadian dramatist Morris Panych's weird black comedy. At best, it is painfully funny and touching. At worst, it is tedious and thoroughly depressing.... Just as you are beginning to write the play-off, however, Panych springs a brilliant twist, which throws everything we have seen before into a startling new perspective. It's a superb coup de theatre, which has been most cunningly set up, and, in its closing minutes, this curious but original piece becomes strangely moving, a piercing lament for human loneliness and the unbridgeable finality of death." Robert Gore-Langton in the Daily Express noted that "this might raise the odd smile, but it is cloyingly sentimental and, despite being just 90 minutes long, it seems to go on forever... Morris Panych's play has an unexpected twist toward the end, but the whole thing leaves you wondering what on earth this one-note comedy sketch is doing in the West End."
"As television's Jonathan Creek, Alan Davies's blandness is often bewildering, sometimes irritating. But in Morris Panych's implausible but enjoyable comedy, first seen at the Edinburgh Festival, that unruffled, doll-like demeanour begins to look sinister... The blink-and-you-miss-them episodes, divided by black-outs and a beguiling soundtrack of crooners, are not so much scenes as comic riffs... Together, they also make an argument for the varied dramatic power of silence. For most of the play, Auntie says not a word. In Edinburgh, Marcia Warren's muteness was sly and beady. Margaret Tyzack, hunched up in her blankets like a beached sea creature, is more frightening. But both are commanding." The Observer
"Some of the jokes about death in Morris Panych's play are satisfyingly black, but after a time they begin to pall. Where Panych finds a more reliable source of comedy is in Kemp's self-pity and his recollections of childhood - the manic-depressive father, the mother who wanted to dress him up as a ballerina. Alan Davies, who plays him, gets a good deal of wry humour out of the part, while Margaret Tyzack is brilliant as Grace, her facial expressions more than making up for her silences. I suppose the piece (nimbly directed by Anna Mackmin) could be described as poor man's Beckett, but I have sat through evenings of real Beckett that were less diverting." The Sunday Telegraph
"On the face of it, the play is about a young man, Kemp, who comes to see his dying aunt. What follows is an achingly funny black comedy, of death and a kind of transfiguration, which could have been jointly written by Tom Lehrer, Joe Orton and Samuel Beckett: a series of short scenes, each ending in a poisonously funny punch line and a blackout... Alan Davies's performance takes him from stand-up comic and television idol into the ranks of serious comedy actors. Margaret Tyzack plays the bedridden woman: a role that involves few words and very little movement, but she turns it into a portrait of growing affection and grim, pawky humour. A masterclass in itself." The Sunday Times
Auntie & Me in London at the Wyndham's Theatre previewed from 10 January 2003, opened on 14 January 2003 and closed on 26 April 2003.