Review: My Dear Aunty Nell (Camden People’s Theatre)

“This is a love letter to us, the gay community,” says writer-performer Tommy, the Queer Historian, during the post-show chat with Adam Zmith (a different interviewee appears at each performance).

My Dear Aunty Nell is about history, queerness, safe spaces, gossip, eldergays and twinks, cottaging and cooking, loss, memories, music and stories (taken from workshops in the Opening Doors project).

In a set decorated by “gay litter” from Mama Cass and Kylie records to a photo of Hinge and Bracket and books from the LGBTQ space, Tommy and Aunty Nell relax in chintz chairs, reminisce, and cook a delightful vegan meal we get to sample at the end

With Anthony Psaila giving a lovely, waspish, witty and deeply moving turn as Aunty, and Tommy bringing all the challenges and celebration of the gay space into the room, My Dear Aunty Nell is a tour de force of laughter and resilience.

Poster for My Dear Aunty Nell

Scott Le Crass – who also has a West End show about to open with Rose – directs the piece and it proves a real collaboration, bringing piecemeal tales together to form a set of stories which really resonate.

There’s a moment where Aunty Nell puts on a record and beautifully lip synchs along (no surprise to find Psaila is a drag performer); another where a Christmas is recounted as the best ever (“drinking sherry on a sofa in our local bog”).

Addiction, abuse, and AIDS are alluded to, as they should be, without unduly darkening the mood. To remember those who have gone before is to celebrate them and to acknowledge the benefit of intergenerational relationships like Tommy and his Aunty Nell.

With some passages of affecting writing, and some cheeky banter, My Dear Aunty Nell is an absolute hit on the Fringe and you can catch it on a short tour after it leaves Camden People’s Theatre’s basement space this week.

For tickets for shows up to 27 May: go here. Follow Tommy on Twitter for details of future performances.