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Past Shows (2000-now)
Charley's Auntie
12-18 November 2001
Day & Night
By Jacobus Raj

Gardner & Wife recently restaged their version of Charley's Auntie! but before anyone can accuse them of rehashing an old idea and milking it for what it's worth, one should realize that almost the entire cast has changed, and with the change in cast came a change in the feel of the play. It is almost an entirely new play.

Only one member of the cast, Rashid Salleh, remains from the first production, but even he does not play the same role that he did the last time around. This time, he takes on the challenges of trying to be the aunty who came late for tea.

The story, which is set in the '60s, is a simple one of love and marriage. Two young lads, Jack (Manesh Nesaratnam) and Charley (Taj) have fallen in love with Kitty (Subashni Jeyaretnam) and Amy (Farah Ashikin). They wish to marry the duo but the girls' guardin, Tuan Megat (Zaibo) is dead set against them marrying anyone and when he sees his wards strolling in the park with the two boys, he packs them off to England.

The action takes place in the day before the girls are scheduled to leave. Charley's aunt, the Baroness von Bolinger (Louisa Chong), whom he has never seen before, announces her plans to visit. The boys use this opportunity to invite the girls over to pop the question. Unfortunately, the aunt is delayed and the boys have to resort to blackmailing Jack's brother Fuzzy (Rashid Salleh), an amateur actor, to get in drag and play Charley's aunt.

The action gets pretty hilarious when both Fuzzy and Jack's father, Major Taufeeq (Manomaniam) and Tuan Megat, both fall fur Fuzzy as the aunt. They both propose marriage to him but he adroitly avoids the issue. Things get more complicated with the arrival of the real baroness and her niece Ela (Zoë Christian). The major falls for her without realizing that she is the real baroness and things seems to go pretty well.

Fuzzy manages to get Tuan Megat to agree to the marriages of his two wards and then disappears, only to return as his real self. It's all a bit convoluted and yet totally fun to watch. Having seen the production the first time around, I still would be hard pressed to label either of them better than the other. The reason is that both efforts had their individual flaws and merits.

Each actor brought a different perspective to the role. For example, Tuan Megat's role was played by Indi Nadarajah in the first outing and by Zaibo in this one. Indi turned Tuan Megat into a lecherous Indian Muslim lawyer whereas Zaibo was the local district officer, equally lecherous but different in many ways.

It was interesting to see some of the actors especially like those who are newcomers to the stage, like Taj. Who's he, one might ask? Well, most of us would be more familiar with him as one of the boys from local group, Innuendo. His portrayal of Charley was excellent, not exactly slow-witted but naïve and pure as the driven snow. Rashid Salleh, who had taken on the role of Jack in the earlier production, was a gem as the faux-baroness and showed that he was definitely man enough to take on the role of a woman.

Like any other production, there were certain flaws but these did not detract from the humour and comedy of the play in any way. Louisa Chong pulled off her role as the real baroness well although there were moments when she seemed a little stiff but these moments were few and far between.

All in all, I would say that the production definitely was a good watch, something totally light-hearted that did not attempt to put forward any message except that of fun. Well worth the time taken to watch it.