Are you a fan of the cartoons of Carl Giles, best known for his work for the Daily and Sunday Express? Then you might like to know his characters – yes, including his often terrifying Grandma – are being brought to life in in a new musical, opening at the New Wolsey Theatre in Ipswich next week.
Grandma Saves the Day! A Musical About the Giles Family written by Phil Willmott is set in the late 1980s.The Giles family are thrown into confusion when the upwardly mobile Stinkletons move in next door.
A Romeo and Juliet-esque tale of love between young members of the feuding families, it takes Grandma Giles to sort it all out – with a few swift blows from her brolly and the battle cry – ‘Gertcha!’.
Combining the much loved Giles cartoon characters with classic hit songs from the Eighties including “Our House”, “Simply the Best”, “Wake Me Up Before You Go- Go” and many more, all played live by a multi-talented company of actor-musicians directed by Pete Rowe, who has written ten record-breaking Christmas shows which are currently being produced annually at the New Wolsey Theatre.
This is a fast-moving, funny and pop filled comic strip for all the family, based on the work of Ronald “Carl” Giles, who died in 1995. He lived and worked in Suffolk for most of his life, and is best known for the some 7500 cartoons that appeared in the Daily and Sunday Express newspapers for almost 50 years, which often included characters from the Giles family, including the combative Grandma, played on stage by Steve Simmonds, whose numerous stage credits include roles in Return To The Forbidden Planet 25th Anniversary Tour and 20th Century Boy, and TV work that includes Love Soup for the BBC.
The cast also includes James Haggie as Rupert Farley-Rusk, an actor who’s no stranger to the New Wolsey stage having recently appeared as the much-loved Buttons in Cinderella, as well as previous appearances at the New Wolsey including Red Riding Hood, Sweet Charity and Mods and Rox.
Adam Langstaff takes the role of Gareth Stinkelton, whose recent appearances include Oxy and the Morons and Tommy, in addition to many of the popular Rock ‘n’ Roll pantomimes including Cinderella, Red Riding Hood, Sinbad and Sword in the Stone.
Other familiar faces include Lana Walker as Vera Giles who played the lead in Red Riding Hood at the Theatre back in 2017, whose credits also include I Happen To Like New York (Orange Tree Theatre) and Dick Whittington (Stafford Gatehouse Theatre).
Ben Goffe, who plays both Eric and Robin Day, last appeared at New Wolsey in Beauty and the Beast in 2014. Ben has recently appeared in Snow White at the London Palladium) alongside credits in A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Royal Shakespeare Company and The Threepenny Opera (Nottingham Playhouse & Graeae).
Peter Manchester will appear as Father Giles, who has previously appeared in 20th Century Boy, Mods and Rox and Sleeping Beauty at the New Wolsey Theatre.
Christina Tedders takes the role of Carol Giles. She appeared in Carmen at the New Wolsey Studio in Autumn 2018, with further theatre credits including ONCE (Original West End Cast) Maggie May (Royal Court, Liverpool) and Oranges & Elephants (Hoxton Hall).
The cast of actor-musicians will also include Guy Freeman as Larry Stinkleton (Dick Whittington, Stafford Gatehouse Theatre and The Commitments, UK & Ireland Tour); Nicky Swift as Eileen Stinkleton (Mamma Mia! UK Tour and Les Miserables, Queen’s Theatre); Grace Lancaster as Bridget Giles (Cinderella the Rock and Roll panto, Leeds City Varieties and Return to the Forbidden Planet, Eastbourne Devonshire Park) and Alice Keedwell as Mother Giles and Mrs Thatcher (Thor & Loki, Edinburgh Fringe/High Tide Tour and A Little Night Music, Watermill Theatre).
Writer Phil Willmott told the BBC Giles’s cartoons were at the “forefront of British satire” and that as he was growing up in the 1980s at least one member of his family would receive the annual compilation of Giles’s cartoons as a present.
“I used to pore over them, entranced by the hilarious little details you could find when you looked hard.”
These might include Rupert Bear being hung on a tree at Christmas and other wicked visual gags as well as the central focus of each cartoon, delivered with consummate style and draughtsmanship, to the delight of readers.
“Unbeknownst to me I was getting a gentle lesson in contemporary politics,” says Phil, “because every day Giles would draw a warm and witty response to events in Westminster, the Royal Family or British society at large.
“These were usually reflected in a snap shot of the life of the wonderful fictitious family he created, ruled over by a fearless grandmother.”
Ipswich is, of course, the ideal venue for the new musical given Giles connections to the city, which includes a bronze statue of “Grandma Giles” in the town centre, looking up at the studio window of where the cartoonist used to work.
• Grandma Saves the Day! A Musical About the Giles Family opens on Friday 26th April and runs until Saturday 18th May at the New Wolsey Theatre, Civic Drive, Ipswich, Suffolk IP1 2AS. To book tickets or find out more, visit this Page on the Theatre’s web site
You can also book through the Tickets Sales Team by calling 01473 295900
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With thanks to Jeremy Briggs for spotting this
The founder of downthetubes, which he established in 1998. John works as a comics and magazine editor, writer, and on promotional work for the Lakes International Comic Art Festival. He is currently editor of Star Trek Explorer, published by Titan – his third tour of duty on the title originally titled Star Trek Magazine.
Working in British comics publishing since the 1980s, his credits include editor of titles such as Doctor Who Magazine, Babylon 5 Magazine, and more. He also edited the comics anthology STRIP Magazine and edited several audio comics for ROK Comics. He has also edited several comic collections, including volumes of “Charley’s War” and “Dan Dare”.
He’s the writer of “Pilgrim: Secrets and Lies” for B7 Comics; “Crucible”, a creator-owned project with 2000AD artist Smuzz; and “Death Duty” and “Skow Dogs” with Dave Hailwood.