Grandad’s Island

Coventry Belgrade B2


There is only one universal, inevitability in life, the unavoidable lot of us all, rich or poor, king or commoner, and when the time comes to shuffle off the mortal coil it is left to those who remain to find ways to cope.

Benji Davies’s book handles the subject of the death of a grandparent with touching sensitivity which is translated quite beautifully to the stage in this adaptation by Matt Aston, who also directs.

Syd’s favourite person is his grandad, while Grandad’s favourite person is Syd - that special bond between grandparents and grandchildren.

Their time together is all about fun and adventures, young and old becoming swashbuckling pirates, or they set about riding the railways, painting and drawing – grandad was once an artist you know - or eating fish and chips – and mushy peas – straight from the paper followed by storytime.

Best of all in Grandad’s attic he can turn his house into a boat and sail off to a desert island for another adventure, it’s an island with beautiful vistas, and it is an island where Grandad decides to stay . . . and one day when Syd goes round to Grandad’s house, he is no longer there. All that is left are the memories and an enduring love.

The D word is never mentioned because although Grandad’s demise is the inevitable end, it is not the story, not the final page, Grandad’s Island is about that special bond, about the memories, about the love between grandparents and grandchildren, which live on in Syd when Grandad is gone. It is a sadness but also a comfort.

previous cast

There was an added poignancy in that I have entered my eighth decade and had taken along my grandsons aged almost four and almost eight. Their life lies ahead, mine is mostly behind and time with them is precious. It is a scenario that will be repeated in almost every audience on tour. It is a play for both young and old – enjoy life to the full, making all the memories you can.

My youngest takes things at face value, to him it was a nice story, Grandad had just stayed on his island – and can we go to Macdonald’s for lunch. My eldest understood and found it sad, but added it was nice for Syd that he had things to remember. Hopefully this will become one more memory for him.

Adam Ryan does a fine job as Syd, not an easy role. We have seen adults play children in things like nativity play comedy sketches, but to act, talk and be convincing as a child, as he was, takes some skill

Marcus Knibbs becomes everyone’s favourite grandad, bewhiskered like Del Boy’s Uncle Albert, he sees life as a big adventure, a great game to be played to the full with grandson Syd, with lashings of pirate water – or squash for Syd, who is only eight or so, remember.

The pair work well together with some lively songs, all aided by a clever set with simple props and some nice video projection on Grandad’s shed with illustrations from Davies’s book.

The play, or indeed book, could be a comfort to any child who has suffered bereavement, but it more than that, it is a brilliant piece of storytelling for any child. Yes, it is sad at the end, but it is a warm sadness, smiles rather than tears, chronicling a relationship which has changed, become more personal, not one lost for ever.

It is a clever, charming, simply told story. On the one hand it deals with a difficult subject in a sensitive and caring way, on the other, it is just a lovely piece of children’s theatre which has enough substance for adults to enjoy as well. To 27-04-19

Roger Clarke

Recommended age 4+


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