Originally published on Exeunt
Viki Browne devotes this show to the memory of her grandmother. People grieve in different ways and for Browne this is her way of processing her sadness. The Gran Show is a work-in-progress and Browne is understandably nervous at the start of her show. Technical elements don’t go as smoothly as an audience would like, but the most an artist can hope for with a work in progress is that the concept holds strong and true. Browne’s concept, her artistry, leaves no room for doubt.
As Browne remembers her gran, she picks out photos 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. 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 – a four-wheel suitcase; the reverent application of suncream; smoking a cigarette. All of these are synonymous with memories of her grandmother and as such 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 meal from this show? There is a valid argument to say that more needs to be added to build the concept, but 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 and funereal. 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 is no longer tacky, but poignant and transcendent.
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.
Writer/ Performer: Viki Browne
The Gran Show is a Work In Progress show and was reviewed on 2 March. For more details, see the website.