Aunty @ Assembly George Square

New Zealand character comic Johanna Cosgrove lets you peek in on a hilarious family reunion in Aunty

Review by Charlie Ralph | 19 Aug 2019
  • Aunty

Family reunions are hotbeds of complex emotional confrontation as personalities with shared histories clash with explosive consequences. Focusing on an Aunty at a family reunion, this is a show bizarrely dependent on just the right level of raucous audience response.

Aunty is the comic creation of Johanna Cosgrove and a hit in her native New Zealand. When she appears clad in a grubby bathrobe complete with sandals and socks, she is received like a conquering hero by a largely antipodean crowd. The show is packed with references to her homeland, not just in setup but punchline too, leaving many unfamiliar audience members confusedly laughing along with the locals. This is by no means an insular show though, and Aunty's excellent portrayal is reflective of that too-drunk relative at every family gathering. The universal elements are more successful than the specific ones, and the audience roars with laughter at every debauched tale spun by this tipsy relative.

It is a thoroughly immersive experience that depends entirely on the gameness of the crowd going along with the idea that we are all members of the same family, of which Aunty plays the twisted, self-imposed matriarch. When this hits right (with dance numbers, parlour games and eulogies), it layers the show with a kind of joy found more through familiarity than humour. However, when audience members get too rowdy it interrupts the show’s flow, leading to Cosgrove having to shut them down in character. It’s an unavoidable flaw that comes with any show heavily reliant on immersive audience interaction and unfortunately Aunty is no different. Come with drinks, friends and family though and you're sure to have a blast with this very anarchic, very New Zealand Aunty.

Aunty, Assembly George Square (The Box), until 25th Aug (not 19), 6.45pm, £9-£12