AS a big fan of David Walliams’ children’s books, the opportunity to head for Sunderland’s Empire Theatre to watch the stage show adaptation of another of those was too good to miss.

Having already been impressed by Gangsta Granny when it hit the North-East not so long ago, this time it was Awful Auntie’s opening night.

Before getting into the actual quality of the performance from the Birmingham Stage Company, it’s worth pointing out that the Empire have introduced a Get Creative room for children to go and play beforehand - it will also be available (at a cost) for the upcoming Madagascar.

After sampling the pre-show food in the theatre’s Bistro, the first taste of Awful Auntie was when Lady Stella Saxby (Georgina Leonidas) woke from a coma, wrapped heavily in bandages, and she found herself in the care of Aunt Alberta.

While a 12-year-old child, going on 13, who has been orphaned following the deaths of her parents may not seem too child-friendly, this adaptation makes it more light hearted than it sounds.

There are a few moments that make you jump as Stella goes about trying to prove there was more to her parents’ death by teaming up with the ghost chimney sweep, Soot.

There aren’t as many jokes as you’d have imagined from a Walliams show, although the usual mentions of ‘poo’ and ‘fart’ certainly got the young audience laughing.

Stella rarely leaves the rotating set that contributes to a giddy sense of chase around the Saxby Manor, as the terrific Aunt - played normally by Timothy Speyer, a veteran of Roald Dahl plays - delivers a fantastic display.

Helped by Wagner, the Great Bavarian Mountain Owl puppet, the Aunt tries her best to get things sorted so she can claim Stella’s inheritance, and it makes for an entertaining couple of hours.

Holly Fraser