There’s no better day than Valentine’s Day to tell you how much we loved Grandad’s Island at York Theatre Royal. This charming, heartwarming two-hander tells a story that’s lived out every day in terraced houses, flats, mansions and bungalows up and down the land and across the world: the precious relationship between a child and their grandparent. In this case, it’s a retelling of Benji Davis’s book: a sweet, funny story of Syd and his Grandad and the adventures they have, told from the intimate space of the studio.When we visited, the young audience – it’s pitched at 5 to 8-year-olds – loved watching the intimate York Theatre Royal studio transform from Syd’s house to Grandad’s house, to a ship and, eventually, an island. The story is cleverly brought to life through story, song and clever set and costume changes that meant even the youngest audience members were engaged throughout: our 3 year old was just as mesmerised as her older siblings.
Syd and Grandad paint, read and eat fish and chips together, relishing each other’s company without a care in the world. If you’ve been lucky enough to experience a relationship like theirs, we should issue a mascara warning: this is a story of loss as much as it is of love. Syd and Grandad’s greatest adventure takes them away to an island, and when Grandad decides to stay, Syd has to come to terms with life without Grandad. It’s incredibly sad but sensitively handled: our 3-year-old was oblivious and the 5-year-old thought that Grandad was playing a trick on Syd, but it hit a raw nerve with the 8-year-old who understood what had happened and was cross that it ‘didn’t have a happy ending’. But loss is part of life, and it’s helpful – if uncomfortable – to introduce children to the idea that people aren’t around forever (but they’ll always be in your heart). This is a lovely show that will bring a ray of sunshine into your February half term.