Viki Browne devotes this show to the memory of her grandmother. People grieve in different ways, and for Browne this is a way of processing her sadness. The Gran Show is a work-in-progress and Browne is understandably nervous at the start of her performance. Technical elements don’t go as smoothly as an audience would like, but her artistry leaves no room for doubt.
As Browne remembers her gran, she picks out photos she found while sorting through the remaining possessions – gran likes to sunbathe, is an effortlessly classy woman and is clearly a source of great affection and devotion for Browne. With plain speaking, no frills honesty, Browne takes delight in the simple things, her expressions of pure, unadulterated joy not dissimilar to a Miranda Hart look-to-camera. Everyday activities are celebrated – the reverent application of suncream or smoking a cigarette. Browne achieves the difficult balancing act of celebration tinged with sadness. Every comment, every loving sentence is adoring and painful, joyous and grievous.
The actual material for the show is fairly scant: a few photos, a few stories, a grapefruit and a cabbage. This will inevitably divide opinion – is there enough meat to make a show? In this setting, the slow pace is an homage. It allows the audience (and Browne as much as anyone) to stop, to pause and to take stock. At the moment at which the atmosphere threatens to overwhelm her and result in an emotional breakdown, Browne stops, smiles and moves on once more.
Each moment builds to a finale that is truly heart-breaking. The happiest day in many a person’s life is their wedding day, but as Browne puts on the bridal gown and processes down the aisle, the mood is sombre. Confetti turns into ash – her devastation becomes deafening and coats us all in a stifling silence. A final shadowy projection of an angel’s wings isn’t tacky, but poignant.
The Gran Show is a sad celebration for a woman that is obviously pivotal in the writer and performer’s life. It’s a rare look into something exceptionally personal and, while rough around the edges, acts as a true tribute to an unsung hero.
For more information on The Gran Show, click here.