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Charley's Auntie
 
6/11/2001
KLue
AUNT BEHAVING BADLY
By Juliana Choo

Mindless fun. That basically sums up Charley's Auntie!, back a second time after last year's highly successful run at the tiny Actors Studio Box. With big names in local TV like Louisa Chong and Zaibo in the cast line-up, you had to be curious about this particular production (other than just to see yet another man in women's clothing - something we all just can't get enough of).

Based on Brandon Thomas' comedy (written in 1892), this story tells of two boys, Jack and Charley, who desperately want to get married. They invite their prospective fiancées for tea on the pretext of meeting Charley's baroness aunt, but when she cancels at the last minute, who else comes along but Jack's misbehaving brother, Fuzzy, who gets cajoled and threatened into playing the aunt, with hilarious results.

As before, director Richard Harding Gardner has kept the play localised, putting the "set in Oxford" story smack in the middle of 1960s Malaya. Thankfully, this time, there's none of that "by George, old chappie" sort of air about the dialogues. The cast is kept entirely grounded with a splattering of BM and Manglish lines here and there, the only exception being Manomaniam, who plays the British Army General wannabe to the hilt - and more amazingly - manages to carry it off pretty convincingly.

Rashid Salleh appears in the title role and quite unexpectedly brings to light his flair for comedy - and not just of the "budak bodoh" variety. He appeared in last year's production as Charley, and it wouldn't be too far off the mark to say that he's much more interesting - and hell of a lot funnier - as Fuzzy, the bad boy. Especially in the scenes together with Manesh Nesaratnam (Jack) - in which we see some rather ouch-inducing male bonding - the laughs come rolling one after another.

Louisa Chong doesn't fare quite as well, however, being overshadowed by the rest of the cast in her role as Charley's real aunt. Despite being a familiar face to most TV-watching Malaysians, she somehow doesn't bring much oomph to the role. Zaibo is, well, the Zaibo we've all seen in TV sitcoms, and he elicits his fair share of laughter with his rendition of the money-faced Tuan Megat. The other cast members manage to hold their own, including first-time actor Taj (of vocal group Innuendo), who walks the fine line between being a convincing Charley and just being hopelessly kayu.

On a set that is just as good looking as the set of Relatively Speaking (an earlier Gardner & Wife production), Charley's Auntie! finally finds a suitable home. Best of all, no more squishing everyone onto a tiny stage in a mass of confusion (which was the case in the last production). Despite some rather naughty jokes here and there, no one will be able to object to this thoroughly enjoyable outing. This one is strictly out for laughs, and even if you already saw it last year, be assured you will still find yourself laughing.