Moving back home to live with your parents is an experience which is painfully all too familiar. Goodbye independence, privacy and peace. I didn’t think there could be anything as undesirable, until I saw Killing Nana at The Hen and Chickens Theatre. I’ve come to realise that living with your grandma could not only be worse but may drive you to homicide. Yes given the title, you can assume it doesn’t end well for Nana.
The play is directed by Michael Black and written by Lee Lomas who also stars as our central character Stephen. Stephen is unemployed, depressed and has had to move in with his grandma and the grandma’s younger carer, Anne (Gemma Acosta). Stephen spends most of his time in shouting matches with his senile and handicapped Nana (Sonja Doubleday). Nana, who can no longer make it up the stairs to shit, is quick to fling awful yet hilarious insults Stephen’s way. The constant derision drives Stephen insane and is apparently the reason why he can no longer get an erection, much to the dismay of his girlfriend Kimmy (Renee Bailey).
I expected Killing Nana to be bleak, but it wasn’t at all. It’s pretty funny in parts and has painfully accurate moments for anyone who’s experienced a similar living arrangement. It’s mostly entertaining but through Stephen does also portray the complexities of suffering with mental health issues and the battle to stay on medication.
The standout is the comedic Sonja Doubleday as Nana who steals every scene she’s in. From her cutting looks to her sharp delivery, she perfectly embodies a nagging grandma who’s oblivious to how grating she is to those around her. Whether she’s going on about Bake-Off, or how much she’d love a cuppa, arguing that you can’t trust vegans, or recalling her fleeting experience of snogging a girl, you can’t help but laugh.
In one heightened moment, Nana complains that Anne has made her a sandwich with stale bread. After much shouting and back and forth, the food and plates are thrown to the ground in a fit of anger. To my horror, the bread was left on the floor and trampled on in the following scene. Although at times one too many scenes felt as if they descended quite quickly into characters shouting on top of one another like this, the tension would then soon be diffused by a stinging one liner from Nana. Overall it was enjoyable and I’d recommend Killing Nana (as in watching the play, not committing the act).
Killing Nana is running at the Hen and Chickens Theatre in Highbury until 13 April 2019.