After the success of Olly Fry’s ‘I, Hooky’ and ‘The Story of Wendy And Jill’ I was very excited to see his newest creation ‘The ‘Just-So’ Grandad’ and for the most part it lived up to Olly’s reputation.
Despite following a similar frantic reminiscent style to ‘I, Hooky’ , this production felt very different to watch. The show follows Olly trying to tell the story of his Grandad and comments on the generational differences between them, where Olly wishes to look forward, Grandad is stuck in his ways. Based loosely on Rudyard Kipling’s Just-so Stories, ‘The Just-So Grandad’ is a touching piece of theatre full of heart.
Rarely does a performance start with the audience giving a round of applause, but Olly managed to get his respectable sized audience doing just that as he introduced Grandad to the stage. There was absolutely no hiding that Grandad was a puppet, and this was the basis to a lot of the humour in the show, whether it be the limp puppet flopping to the floor within seconds, leading to Olly saying he’s going to give him a hand, or when Grandad would journey across the laps of the audience, all of the comedy that was cleverly inserted into the piece received a warm response from the audience.
It’s probably important to get out of the way that Olly is no Ventriloquist, but it’s clear that that isn’t his intention, he doesn’t try and fail to give his puppet a voice, but instead uses this separate being as a way of characterising his grandad, and surprisingly, this pays off very well. Regarding this separate being, I do think we could have done without watching Olly give birth to his puppet grandfather, but this really was insignificant when stacked against the brilliance of the writing overall.
Early on, we were warned that there would be parts that were longer than they should be, parts that were shorter than they should be and bits that we may find boring, and there were times when this was true, but the warning almost acted as a safety blanket for that as we were ready for it and promised a safe journey ‘to the end together’. Some unfortunate and discontinuous pauses were dotted throughout, but I certainly put this down to nerves and speaking to Olly afterwards, I realise that not only was this his first ever performance of this show, but also a performance of a work in progress, so it was understandable, other pauses were due to the lack of a techy (Which is something I probably would have been doing if I wasn’t reviewing, sorry) and a puppet which is quite difficult to get your hand in and out off (I gave it a go afterwards too).
The relationship between Olly and Grandad was fantastic and you could tell there was a true bond and warmth towards the person that the puppet portrayed which was an unexpected delight which felt very real and natural. Moment’s when Olly’s character became angry at Grandad were a brilliant contrast to the warm loving tenderness built up beforehand.
The piece made great social comments regarding old-fashioned customs and poked fun at both Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn, although I can’t help but feel sorry for Aunty Shirley, who seemed to take a lot of wrath from Olly when he was talking about family members who were stuck in their ways.
The piece ended on a strange note with Grandad lip-syncing to a song that is still stuck in my head, which seemed to drag on just a bit too long and made me think there was more to come afterwards. On the whole the piece was well written and well thought through and was a great tribute to Kipling’s Just So Stories and Olly’s Grandad but could do with some polishing in certain areas, but as a wise monkey once told us all, and was retold from the mouth of Olly Fry in this performance ‘Change is Good’.