by WinGuide editor Donald Hutera
Creative Cow is a theatre company that specialises in fresh stagings of classic plays or literary adaptations, from Shakespeare’s The Merry Wives of Windsor, Brandon Thomas’s Charley’s Aunt, and Dickens’ Hard Times to Harold Pinter’s The Lover, John Osborne’s Look Back in Anger, Sheridan’s The Rivals and Oliver Goldsmith’s She Stoops to Conquer.
The play was adapted in 1989 by Giles Havergal from Graham Greene’s 1969 novel, which had already been turned into a 1972 film starring Alec McCowen and the Oscar-nominated Maggie Smith. Greene’s unlikely hero is Henry Pulling, a retired and rather boring suburban bank manager and bachelor whose quiet, safe and risk-free life is completely turned around thanks to his eccentric Aunt Augusta.
The latter is an eccentric sexual adventuress and small-time swindler who harbours quite a significant secret. She persuades Henry to accompany her first to Brighton then Paris, Istanbul and beyond. Through this marvelous, madcap relative he encounters a twilight society of hippies, war criminals, CIA operatives and art smugglers and, in the process, is himself transformed.
The plotline not only mirrors Green’s real-life obsession with travelling, often to danger spots, but also takes the reader – and the theatre-goer – on a whirlwind tour of the fictional world the author had conjured in his previous writing.
Prior to the start of the tour, WinGuide editor Donald Hutera flung a few questions about both Creative Cow and the show in the direction of company co-founder Katherine Senior. Here’s what she had to say…
Donald Hutera: How and when did Creative Cow start, and where it its home?
Katherine Senior: Creative Cow was formed by two actors, Matthew Parish and me, and the director Amanda Knott. We’ve learnt to work very closely over the last nine years, so that what we hope to deliver always comes from a very organic place. We’ve been told that Creative Cow has a style which isn’t been forced upon the work we do, but grows out of our partnership. We rehearse in Exeter at the moment, but depending on the show we might rehearse in a barn on a farm in Devon where the cows live…
DH: Beyond the fact of 2016 being the 25th anniversary of Graham Greene’s death, why choose to stage and tour this source production now?
KS: We actually produced Travels With My Aunt in 2009 and have been looking to tour it again ever since. We managed to secure the rights for the most recent version of Giles Havergal’s stage adaptation, which was updated for London’s Menier Chocolate Factory a few years ago. The script has had various incarnations all over the world, some productions with four actors and others with as many as 30. We’ve opted for the four-actor version.
DH: What can audiences expect of the show?
SH: It’s a lively, skillful, inventive and highly entertaining evening that’s also true to Greene’s novel. It’s a pretty timeless piece, with many references and ideas that resonate still.
DH: What are some things you’ve learnt from working on it?
KS: It’s taught us a great deal about the true meaning of ensemble. As our director Amanda Knott – who was a professional ballet dancer in a previous life – has said, it’s like being in a ballet where you have to watch everyone else to create a true synchronicity. This is what our production has at its core. It’s hard work! But our aim has always been to present the most exciting, daring and fun night out possible.
To book tickets, please visit the Theatre Royal website.