David Walliams' Awful Auntie at The Marlowe Theatre, Canterbury

by Lauren Abbott

In the words of beloved Canterbury comic Dave Lee...'Well we'll have to do it again then won't we. Whoops!"

I think that pretty much sums up how I feel about this half term.

I'd rather like to do it all again.

Our Kent Family with Dave Lee's statue at The Marlowe Theatre
Our Kent Family with Dave Lee's statue at The Marlowe Theatre

Rain, floods, rain, more rain, thunderstorms, more rain...

For a school holiday on the edge of summer, it feels like a bit of a disappointing wash out.

And for anyone attempting to amuse children this week - your patience, your bank balance, or both has perhaps taken quite the hit as you attempt to find things to do around the unpredictable weather.

In fact - when we walked into the foyer of The Marlowe Theatre in Canterbury yesterday and saw the paper fleet of ships created by children enjoying this week's Little Words festival, I think we'd have all been willing passengers aboard the fun-looking cardboard fleet. Throw in a bottle of rum to numb the pain and I'll have even washed the deck.

But what hasn't been a wash out is this week's Little Words Festival - running until Sunday (June 3).

Plays, performances, storytelling, free creative workshops - like that involving the construction of the Paper Navy - talks and tours are immersing children and their families in a magical world of storytelling.

And where better to find some half term magic than between the pages of a book? Especially if those stories are being told inside and out of the rain!

It was David Walliams' Awful Auntie that was our rescue remedy.

Awful Auntie by David Walliams is on stage
Awful Auntie by David Walliams is on stage

With numerous performances daily until Sunday - the story of 12-year-old Stella Saxby and her aunt Alberta who will stop at nothing to take Stella's inheritance after the suspicious death of her parents - is brilliantly brought to life on stage.

Using puppetry, the most clever set which twists and turns to create the entire estate Saxby Hall, and of course all the slapstick comedy and toilet humour we've come to expect from a David Walliams tale and you have the makings of a superb and entertaining gem of live theatre for children.

Awful Auntie is at The Marlowe Theatre until Sunday, June 3.
Awful Auntie is at The Marlowe Theatre until Sunday, June 3.

Phoebe, 10, and Oscar, 7, both have the book while Amber, 7, and Liv, 5, came at this with no real appreciation of the story.

If you're wondering whether it's worth seeing if you haven't turned read the pages first - in all honesty I don't think it mattered either way.

Who can fail to laugh at an awful Auntie who washes her face with boot polish, cleans her teeth using toothpaste which has been mixed with bubble bath, climbs out of bed to a myriad of marbles on the floor, pulls on bloomers with ants inside or who sits back in bed to light her pipe only for it to blow up - complete with a real-life boom and pyrotechnic explosion that made us all jump!

And when it came to the real-life car and motorbike chase on stage - I'm not exaggerating when I say it was edge of the seat stuff.

And four tiny bottoms had wiggled from their seats and boosters and were hovering on the tips of their chairs - just like every other captivated child in the theatre willing Stella, and her ghostly sidekick Soot, to escape Alberta's clutches.

You'll be on the edge of your seats with the car chase
You'll be on the edge of your seats with the car chase

It was exciting, it was thrilling and most-importantly it was memorable and will no doubt be the stuff of stories the children take back to school with them next week.

And what's more it's led to many a conversation since about which Walliams' classic they've read or yet to read, while returning to the pages of this one which had been left on the shelf.

Which is perhaps, when it comes to children, all the proof you need to know that Awful Auntie really wasn't awful after all.

Awful Auntie is at The Marlowe Theatre until Sunday, June 3 with performances twice a day, including a post-show talk on Friday afternoon.

To learn more, ticket prices or to make a booking click here.

For more on this week's Little Words festival, also running until Sunday, visit the website.

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