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Big Aunty - A Night of Unexpected Delight

Keiren Hamilton-Amos, Corey Campbell, Alexia McIntosh. Photo Nicola Young.

Big Aunty, Belgrade Theatre’s B2 Auditorium, from 24 April to 6 May.

Directed and devised by Corey Campbell.

Review Les Grafton.

“There is no resurrection without death”

In this first home produced Belgrade show of the season, creative director Corey Campbell has come up with a mini-masterpiece. Despite its relatively short running time it packs a mighty emotional punch.

After a cleverly devised opening, “Big Aunty” follows a dysfunctional family to Jamaica for the funeral of their mum, and adoptive mum, Big Aunty. This simple premise is delivered with humour, physical theatre, dance and music.

Alexia McIntosh and Keiren Hamilton-Amos. Photo by Nicola Young

On entering the auditorium, Belgrade’s flexible B2 studio space, the audience meet Shaun played by Keiren Hamilton-Amos. He is in dumb show, clearly stressed, with his laptop and phone open. When the lights finally dim, he begins an interview via zoom. This is projected above a simple set that moves and evolves throughout the play to serve the many functions and locations of this intriguing collaborative piece.

His progress is interrupted by the sudden arrival of family members Naomi, played by Alexia McIntosh and Marcus Taylor, powerfully played by director, Corey Campbell. Clearly there are tensions between the ‘siblings’ and on hearing of the death of their mother, Big Aunty, a familiar dynamic of blame and recrimination is played out. Other darker familial events are also revealed. However, this is no King Lear of dread and doom, but full of funny lines particularly when the action moves overseas. Here the excellent B2 sound system is used to full effect with bass driven music for the dance routines and more subtly for the choir, ably led by Joelle Ikwa.

Big Aunty at The Belgrade.

At one stage Hamilton-Amos and McIntosh switch character to play older relatives at the funeral with great comic effect and to the delight of the audience who recognise the stereotype. Aunty’s funeral is genuinely moving with the ensemble cast of leads and choir members manipulating the set to enable a realistic interment. Aunty has left letters for her offspring and Marcus gives a heartfelt eulogy as the play moves to a surprising revelation at its close, which takes us neatly back to the opening.

This makes for a night of unexpected delight with thought provoking themes, explored in a play full of inventive theatrical ideas, exploring grief and loss yet somehow full of humour and joy.


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