Review: AURELIA at Howick Little Theatre

When you don’t know who to trust, what are you prepared to risk?

By: May. 05, 2024
Review: AURELIA at Howick Little Theatre
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Ably directed by Arthur Young, AURELIA is a thriller mystery embroidered with suspense and intrigue, with several unexpected turns. Originally this was a French work by award-winning writer Robert Thomas and Jean-Pierre Ferrière, often referred to as the "French Agatha Christie", and was translated to English by Tudor Gates.  "The script captivated me," says director Arthur Young. "I envisioned the characters vividly and the way the story unfolded from the first read."

And those characters are brought to life with realistic portrayals, insight, passion and conviction. The action is set in the 1980s Cotswolds, England. Refined, elegant Lady Chalmont (played by Debbie Allan) has received the welcome news that her estranged nephew John is returning home from abroad with his new wife, Aurélia (Ellie Barrow). John has remained her favourite despite some dubious behaviours in the past. 

Innocent and naive Isabel, Olivia Skelling), John's childhood friend, is clearly distraught at having to reconnect with John, and to meet the woman who has ousted her in his affections.  After all, she's just got over him!  Much of the first half of the play is in the back story, and the pace is quite slow - as is quite typical of this genre. The energy (and comedy) in the early stages of the play comes from gossipy Vera (Brenda Jackson), Lady Chalmont's observant and sharp- witted housekeeper. Superb performance here from Brenda Jackson who balances the more sombre elements of the developing action with well-timed and projected comic relief. 

However, beautiful and striking Aurélia arrives alone, and as she recounts her story, there are obviously elements shrouded in secrecy and suspicion. It is increasingly evident that Aurélia's presence disrupts the household, despite the fact that Aurelia is building a bond with the unsuspecting Isabel. When she breaks down and confesses the truth, the suspense and intrigue start to percolate. The web of deceit and crime begins to build.

 Tensions are raised by the visitations of the gum-chewing fastidiously charming Mercer (Romain Mereau). Excellent characterisation from Mereau who claims to be friends with John and Aurélia, but has his own villainous motives.  In Act 2, the pace, intrigue and tensions build. The action quickens in pace and the unexpected layers of twists and turns keep us guessing.  

The arrival of an unexpected visitor (Tom Campbell), throws everything further into question. Campbell manages to capture the many sides to this character - the weak, the resentful, the trapped, the rebellious, the man in love. But if you want to know the tragedy of the ending, you will have to get along yourself.... no spoilers here. 

Excellent work from the creative team: Wardrobe (Judy Rankin), Lighting Design (David Blakey, Sho Okumoto), Sound Design (Daniel Ng), Set Design/ Decor (Ruth McNeilly), and all those who work as a team behind the scenes to create each and every show's success. 

With its exploration of deception, the complexities of human relationships, and the secrets we hold close, Aurélia will engage the audience and get audiences on the edge of their seats - particularly in the second half.  

Experience the mystery - Aurélia runs from 4 to 25 May.
Tickets are available online at hlt.nz/aurelia or through iTICKET by calling 09 361 1000.

Photo courtesy of Howick Little Theatre 




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