“Grow Up Grandad” is a poignant and heartfelt journey brought to life by a cast of four actors, who skilfully portray a total of six distinct characters. The play, expertly directed by Warren McKenzie, weaves a tale of intergenerational relationships and the challenges that arise when young Poppy, finds herself under the care of her cantankerous grandfather.
The play, beautifully written by Gordon Steel, strikes a perfect balance between moments that tug at your heartstrings and those that leave you in fits of laughter. Poppy (Zoe Battersby) and Grandad (Malcolm Walton) showcase the multifaceted dynamics of family life. The pacing and timing in the production are praiseworthy, allowing the audience to truly immerse themselves in the moment, appreciating the pauses and tempo that add depth to the performance. However it’s worth noting that on one or two occasions, the actors didn’t allow for the audience’s laughter to subside before the next lines were delivered, which resulted in some missed moments of dialogue.
Zoe Battersby, as Young Poppy, brings bravado and sassiness to her character, delivering a wonderfully mischievous look on those occasions when she sets up Grandad. In fact, her facial expressions and body language throughout provide an exceptional depth and authenticity to her character, enhancing the believability and credibility of her performance. It is also worth noting that Zoe’s ability to play two characters, as she does with Poppy and Molly, is a challenging feat, and she accomplishes it admirably.
Malcolm Walton, in his role as Grandad, adeptly portrayed a range of emotions, from seething anger and frustration to deep-seated fear and genuine love, all of which added rich layers to his character’s portrayal. He embodied the cantankerous exterior and contrasting soft interior of his role beautifully. Walton’s seamless transition between the younger and older versions of the character was well executed.
Linda Lawson as Aunt Margaret and Poppy Senior and Kaitlyn Meadows as social worker Genevieve delivered strong performances in their respective roles. There was careful attention to detail shown in distinguishing Aunt Margaret and Poppy Senior through costuming, wigs, and nuanced acting by Lawson. The execution of synchronised speaking by the Senior Poppy and Young Poppy was a highlight.
Under Warren McKenzie’s direction, the soliloquies seamlessly integrated into the scenes, preserving the natural flow of the play. His innovative staging and stage design by James Allenby, Kym Clayton and Trisha Graham allowed for the parallel presentation of two distinct settings on either side of the stage. In Act 2 this was notably effective in transporting the audience between the past and the present, separated by 30 years.
The technical aspects of the production are impressive, and the music, chosen with care, effectively conveys the era and complements the storytelling. The lighting design, courtesy of James Allenby, adds to the visual richness of the play, creating a compelling contrast, particularly in Act 2.
“Grow Up Grandad” resonates with a modern audience, as it delves into the challenges many families face, such as grandparents taking on parental responsibilities and dealing with the complexities of ageing and dementia. The clash of cultures, symbolised by jigsaws, Val Doonican records, and Poppy’s lack of familiarity with LPs and record players, adds depth to the narrative.
In conclusion, “Grow Up Grandad” is a compelling production that balances the emotional and humorous aspects of life’s complexities, delivering a performance that is both relatable and thought-provoking. It’s a play that you will enjoy and will have a memorable impact on you – very entertaining.