Aunty, a solo show by Johanna Cosgrove, feels more like a party than a show. It is the foundation of its success, and a symptom of a fundamental flaw.
But first, the good stuff.
At the centre of the festivities is Aunty, an obnoxious, self-absorbed but loving woman, who has managed to pull her entire extended family (the audience) together for an overdue family reunion.
As part of the show, audience members are invited to bring party foods, which are left on a table near the door. The audience are arranged like a horseshoe around the edge of the Studio, with Aunty holding court in the middle of the floor. Occasionally she will ask one of her ‘relatives’ to refill her glass as she regales the audience with a stream-of-conscious about the family history (she’s discovered a distant connection to Bill English), her disappointment of a husband (exiled to an offstage man-cave), and her absent daughter Linda.
It’s a pretty funny set up, and provides plenty of opportunities for back and forth between Aunty and her ‘family’. There is a faint air of unpredictability, but it does not tax the audience in the same way as something like Red Bastard or this reviewer’s brush with crowd-fueled alcoholism in Onstage Dating. It’s all rather light and frothy.
And that is really my only problem with it.
Aunty is good for a few laughs, but there is nothing really underpinning the show. Conflict is hinted at (Linda’s non-appearance), but it never builds to any kind of character revelation or change. There is one brief moment where Aunty’s cheery facade collapses, but it does not lead anywhere.
A fun show and a fun character, but ultimately Aunty amounts to less than its booze-soaked parts.
Aunty plays at The Basement until 16 September.
SEE ALSO: Theatreview.org.nz review by Nik Smythe