Stephen Hair Christopher Hunt and Braden Griffiths
Graham Greene’s Travels With My Aunt a departure from typical murder mystery
Vertigo Theatre’s current offering Travels With My Aunt is something of a departure from the murder mysteries the company usually presents.
“It’s not a typical kind of murder-mystery format. There’s a bit of a mystery and there’s actually a murder that happens in the play but that’s not the main focus of the story” says actor Christopher Hunt. “It’s mostly an adventure a caper story that has some comedy and some heart.”
The play is based on a 1969 novel by English writer Graham Greene the pen behind such thrillers as The Confidential Agent and Brighton Rock .
“People might think it’s a dusty old book but Greene references drug use Andy Warhol — some references that make it seem a little more hip and irreverent than Vertigo audiences might expect” says Hunt.
Vertigo artistic director Craig Hall says Greene described Travels With My Aunt as the only book he ever wrote “just for the fun of it.” In the play audiences meet quiet unassuming Henry Pulling — a retired bank manager who spends his days tending his dahlias — in the wake of his mother’s death.
Enter Aunt Augusta Pulling’s eccentric septuagenarian aunt who tells him some startling news about his past. The pair then embarks on a series of adventures that take them across Europe and beyond.
Hunt says Giles Havergal’s stage adaptation offers a “poetic” take on Greene’s novel but that it remains faithful to the original story. In the production however the play’s four actors — Hunt Stephen Hair Braden Griffiths and Mike Tan — all take turns at portraying Pulling.
“Sometimes all four of us will play Henry in the course of one page of script” Hunt says adding that this theatrical conceit offers a “hook” to make the story translate from the page to the stage.
Hunt says he and the rest of the actors don’t rely on costume changes to make the character shifts evident; instead they constantly change voices accents and postures to indicate who they are playing at any given moment.
In addition to Pulling the actors assume a number of other characters throughout the show from Aunt Augusta (played by Hair) to the Aunt’s two lovers Pulling’s love interest a vicar detectives and taxi drivers.
Hunt for example takes on a Turkish and an Italian character — a challenge he says to be accurate with the accents yet still find the “fun” in each persona.
While sound effects lighting and changing accents hint at where the action is taking place at any given moment in the story Hunt says audiences still have to “listen and watch” to follow the play’s journey as it wends its way across Europe.
“I think it’s quite a fun journey and a wacky look at these characters but at the end of the day it’s a touching story about the aunt and her nephew and how they come to know each other” says Hunt.