Journeys to hilarity

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Henry Pulling is a grey man with a grey life: retired from a job in banking, settling into dull middle age with dahlia growing as its high point.

Then he encounters his long lost aunt Augusta, a far from dull lady with a colourful past – and suddenly his life becomes a whirlwind.

And it all happens at the Pomegranate this week.

The play is Travels With My Aunt, adapted for the stage from Graham Greene’s delicious comic novel and brought to quirky life by Tabs Productions.

Four actors take turns at playing Henry: George Telfer, who is also Aunt Augusta; John Hester, Michael Longhi and Adrian Lloyd James, who also play the twenty-odd characters they encounter, nearly half of them female.

There are assorted policemen, fortune tellers, spies, smugglers and war criminals; a pregnant American, a ubiquitous love-lorn African and even a dog.

Nothing is overplayed; subtle changes of voice and posture put each one over loud and clear.

Eventful journeys take Henry and Augusta first to Brighton, then to Istanbul and Boulogne, and finally to South America, where the shady goings-on reach a climax. They travel by taxi, plane, boat and train, complete with sound effects also supplied by the four.

It works seamlessly, and amazingly without confusion, even though all four Henrys wear grey suits throughout, and the closest thing to a costume change is a couple of hats, rolled-up trouser legs and a jacket worn as a mini skirt.

Henry’s bowler hat does duty as cremation urn, candle and gold ingot, and I won’t spoil the joke about the painting – go and see for yourself.

It’s gentle comedy rather than the riproaring knockabout kind, and under the unlikely rollercoaster of sex, drugs and nefarious behaviour Henry is exposed to, it carries an equally gentle message: put some colour into your life, and don’t settle for grey.

The unusually large first night audience certainly appreciated it, and it runs till Saturday, so you could too.