Reviewed by Sarah Bloomer
Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
A small but accomplished ensemble trod the boards on opening night for Penny Smith and Tom Worrell’s production of Grow Up Grandad, a heart-wrenching tale of intergenerational loss and unlikely companionship in a relationship that is thrown together only to be torn apart.
Grandad is a belligerent old man who unwittingly inherits his twelve-year-old Grandaughter, Poppy when she is abandoned by her mother. The two run a gamete of emotions as they move from awkward incompatibility to tender endearment, navigating many twists and turns along the way.
Partington Players veteran David Wilson delivers an on-stage master-class as he performs in the eponymous role, his most enjoyable, he states, in his twenty-five year acting career. The role of Poppy is played by two actors: relative newcomer Chloe Dolby, a striking raw talent whose stage presence captivates as she advances from sassy precociousness to haunting vulnerability, and fellow Youth theatre actor Nia Griffin who reprises the role on alternate nights. Jayne Skudder demonstrates effortless versatility as Poppy’s thirty-two-year-old counterpart, delivering tear-jerking monologues and grief-stricken fury.
For all it’s weightiness and heart-break there is an equal measure of humour and hilarity, particularly as generations clash in exchanges between Grandad and young Poppy, “We can do a jigsaw”. “Oh my God!”
The scene changes are minimal and fluid and the lighting used to indicate a shift in time from day to night. There are memorable moments of clever direction as time shifts between present and future in a wonderfully synchronized door closing scene.
Ending a volatile, emotive piece is challenging. Grow Up Grandad closes with a deftly choreographed synergy between twelve-year-old Poppy and thirty-two-year old Poppy as they traverse revelations and retrospections in a role reversal with Grandad, now suffering with Alzheimer’s, as he shares fragments of his story with his Great Grandaughter Molly (Molly Tierney).
“Would you like to do a jigsaw?” “Do you know, I’d absolutely love to”. A perfect conclusion to a contemplative play.
Grow Up Grandad is on at Partington Players Theatre, Glossop until Saturday 1st February, further information available here.