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Dancing With Auntie

by Bill Cronshaw


Black Comedy Play: 'Dancing With Auntie' by Bill CronshawThe Boxing Day ‘do’ at Barry’s parents’ house was always the same, year after year, until 1967. Up to then, the get-together had consisted of a visit by Auntie Dot, cousin Marlene, and Jed, Marlene’s boorish husband; present giving, mountains of food, too much drink, and dancing. Every year, to Barry’s excruciating embarrassment, Dot would say to Barry, “Come on Barry, dance with your auntie!”, and Marlene, Dot’s daughter; also called ‘auntie’ by Barry, would ‘inadvertently’ find some way of making him cringe.

When Christmas 1967 arrives though, Barry, now in his late teens, and having outgrown the childish pleasures of Christmas, invites his new girlfriend, Susan, along to meet Beryl, his mum, Norman his dad, and his other close relatives. Her inclusion in the festivities however, has a catalytic effect on the entire family’s relationships; changes that somewhat alter the Christmas-time party atmosphere. Susan is a very modern, uninhibited ‘sixties’ girl, and quickly comes into conflict with Beryl, a strictly conventional woman, who desperately tries to reinforce her rose-tinted view of family life.

With tensions raised, Marlene’s pregnancy is clumsily announced and despite more ham-fisted attempts at humour from Jed, Norman is forced to keep the peace between the women as deeply hidden anxieties rise to the surface like molten lava, scorching each and all in its path. The source of the turmoil is uncovered when Beryl’s fragile emotions explode and she reveals the family’s dark secret - that Norman made a girl pregnant while he was in the army. The baby’s mother died at birth, and so the child (Marlene) was brought up as her own by Norman’s sister, Dot. Marlene and Jed are unaware of this, as is Barry, who now has a new step-sister. With everyone coming to terms with this dramatic news, the play finishes with just Barry and Marlene on stage, as she touchingly says to him, “Come on Barry, dance with your … auntie?”.

This play can be split into Two Acts


60-70 mins approx


(3m, 4f)

  • Norman Metcalfe (Dad) - 45-55, Barry’s father
  • Beryl Metcalfe (Mam) - 40-50, Barry’s mother
  • Barry Metcalfe - 17-18, their son
  • Susan Pearson - 17-18, Barry’s girlfriend
  • Dot Metcalfe - 40-50, Barry’s unmarried aunt, Marlene’s mother
  • Marlene Tonks - 25, Barry’s cousin (his ‘Auntie’)
  • Jed Tonks - 25-30, Marlene’s husband
  • Older Barry - 35-50, written as a disembodied, reflective voice

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