What happens when a Victorian-era Oxford undergraduate dons a dress to impersonate the aunt of one of his friends?
Tempo Theatre's production of Charley's Aunt marks 20 years since the company last presented Brandon Thomas's classic English farce.
Charley's Aunt is set at Oxford University in 1892, the year it premiered, when Victorian morality is at its height.
Undergraduates Jack Chesney (played by Ash Hamilton) and Charley Wykeham (Patrick Hayes) are in love with two girls, Kitty (Matilda Saddington) and Amy (Hannah Miller), they met at a dance and want to see them again and declare their feelings.
But doing so without a chaperone is unthinkable.
When they hear Charley's rich aunt, Donna Lucia D'Alvadorez, is coming from Brazil ("Where the nuts come from") to visit, the boys invite the girls for lunch to meet her. But then they get word Charley's aunt is not coming.
What to do?
Thinking quickly, they persuade a friend, Lord Fancourt Babberly (Bertram O'Brien) who dabbles in amateur theatricals, to frock up and "be" Charley's aunt, since nobody, including Jack, has ever met her.
So he puts on bloomers, black satin skirt and wig to oblige.
Suitably "chaperoned", the boys can proceed. But then the real Donna Lucia D'Alvadorez (Andrea Charlton) - still unknown - unexpectedly turns up, as do others whose motives range from the pure to the purely mercenary, and complications ensue.
This Charley's Aunt is being mounted at what has been Tempo's unofficial home since 2000, Belconnen Community Theatre.
The play is being directed by Michael Weston who was involved with two Sydney productions of it - one as an actor, one backstage - and also directed the previous Tempo Charley's Aunt.
In his first Charley's Aunt, he played Sir Francis Chesney, Jack's father - performing as a 51-year-old character when he was in his mid-20s.
Weston has been involved in theatre for 45 of his 63 years (the last 27 in Canberra). He has been using a wheelchair for the last few years because he has facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy.
"The hardest thing is telling actors how to stand and move," he says, since he can no longer demonstrate it.
Weston says the company is using a version of the script revised by the playwright's grandson that removes some of the more archaic language and reference.
They didn't have access to the revised version last time but now that it's available they are using it or this production.
Thomas's play - which had a very successful original run in both Britain and the US - has had many revivals.
There have been many adaptations including numerous films in the US - one with Jack Benny - Britain, Europe and Asia. Other versions include the 1948 Broadway musical Where's Charley? with songs by Frank (Guys and Dolls) Loesser (also filmed, in 1952, with original star Ray Bolger), opera, pantomime and television productions.
Tempo's 1999 production of Charley's Aunt was at what is now Weston Creek Labor Club. Weston says it was "hugely successful" and helped revive Tempo, which had focused on musicals in its early years but faced increasing competition in that area.
The company turned to comedies, Agatha Christie mysteries and pantomimes, which have helped keep it going.
"We haven't look back since."
- Charley's Aunt. By Brandon Thomas. Directed by Michael Weston. Tempo Theatre. Belconnen Community Theatre, Swanson Court, Belconnen. October 25, 26, 29, 30 and 31 and November 1 and 2 at 7.30pm, October 26 and November 2 at 2pm, October 27 at 4pm. Bookings: canberraticketing.com.au or 62752700.