My Sainted Aunt

Philip Sagar
New End Theatre
(2003)

For some unknown reason, it is very rare to see a good play about the world of business. Playwrights seem to struggle in their efforts to understand how accountants, lawyers and bankers live and work. By way of contrast, few businessmen seem able to write well for the stage about their experiences.

Philip Sagar falls into the latter category, He is a banker who has worked around the world, clearly in positions of influence. My Sainted Aunt is at its strongest as a lesson in the way that private banks in Switzerland vet and treat their prospective clients (definitely not to be called customers).

As one character says, it is about "fraud, forgery, sexual perversion and money laundering", potentially a fascinating combination. Francesco Dinero is a gigolo who turns up with lots of money at Simmonds Bank, attractively designed by Simon Scullion.

For some reason the remarkably suave banker, Jonathan Prendergast (played by John Griffiths, a late replacement for the Archers' Graham Seed and still referring to the text) is shocked at the thought and Dinero struggles to express himself. When the banker discovers that Dinero's latest patronne is his aunt, Maudie, a sprightly performance from Shirley-Anne Field, he goes mad with puritanical anger.

There are a few more pretty young men to create a louche impression and a bank internal auditor who investigates Prendergast's entirely uncharacteristic behaviour in revealing a client's personal details to outsiders and stealing a forged Modigliani.

All of this amounts to a light sitcom that relies on tame sexual prurience and unlikely human motivations for its humour. This is a pity as, had Mr Sagar stuck to what he writes well about and written a drama about life in a Swiss Bank drawing on his more eccentric customers and some of the dodgier ones, he might have come up with something of much wider interest.

This review originally appeared on Theatreworld in a slightly different version.

Reviewer: Philip Fisher