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Thursday, July 25, 2024 | Digital Edition | Crossword & Sudoku

Harmer’s new comedy – a club for grandparents

Wendy Harmer, left, with Grandparents’ Club cast members Lynne McGranger and John Field… “The tissues will be out there. But I avoid mawkishness and bathos; for God’s sake, it’s a comedy,” Harmer says. Photo: David Hooley

Comedian Wendy Harmer may be bringing the lives of grandparents to life in a new stage play she’s written called The Grandparents’ Club, but she’s not a grandparent – not yet, anyway. 

“I have a 24-year-old daughter and a son aged 26,” she tells me when we catch up by phone. 

“I was 39 when I was married and then had kids at ages 42 and 44, so I’m not holding my breath.”

“I often say, hurry up, I won’t be around long and I’m too old to go jumping on the trampoline.”

Her son tells her he doesn’t know if he wants to have kids and that there’s plenty of time, but in her view, “he’s been dragging the chain a bit”.

No, she’s not a member of The Grandparents’ Club featured in the play, which bears its name, but she is well aware that her complaints are a familiar refrain among signed-up members.

Well before Harmer had any ideas of writing on the subject, there was a popular Facebook page called The Grandparents Club, the authors of which, Lyndi Adler and Maree Kirkland-Morris, commissioned her to write this piece and are the producers. 

“They thought it would make a good stage show and once I got going, I began to think they were on to something,” she says. 

“It seems to have people who go to the shows roaring with laughter,” she says with some amazement, “I’ve written the book and John Field, who’s written a couple of hundred songs for The Wiggles, wrote the music.”

Luke Joslin directs and there are four people in the cast, including Wayne Scott Kermond, well known to Canberrans as a vaudeville performer, playing club president and host, Jimmy Bigelow.

As club regulars Liz, Jeff, and Maria, are Lynne McGranger, who has appeared in Home & Away, as Irene for more than 30 years; Andrew James, a seasoned actor known for his roles for Bell, Sydney Theatre Company, Nimrod and Griffin, and Meredith O’Reilly, a professional entertainer for 40 years.

The setting for the 90-minute comedy revue is the fictional Grandparents Club, a haven of refuge.

“When the girls came to me about writing the show, they gave me an open book,” Harman says, “so I decided to make the characters members of The Grandparents Club.” 

“Grandparents are doing some really heavy-duty work in the economy at the moment with both parents having to go to work. Grandparents are doing a huge amount of unpaid work. And don’t forget there’s also the bank of Grandma and Grandpa, that’s the serious side of things.”

But they can have fun at the club, which has an all-you-can-eat buffet, bar, café and spa and, on the top floor, the gym.

“And, yes, there are walking frames… to me, the greatest highlight is Wayne Scott Kermond conducting the class in Chair Zoomba… he’s such an experienced comedian so has a lot of audience interaction.”

McGranger, she says, has a plum part, one which will be very familiar to audiences. Her character’s in a bit of a hurry to have grandkids. 

“There’s a whole generation of young people who are delaying having kids, so there’s a group of people with a real grandparent-lust, one reason I was so attracted to this subject.”

It’s such a universal subject in fact that it prompts songs, 17 of them in fact.

“People are telling me it’s really magical, it feels like a circle has been filled, the circle of life.”

There’s a song about how to share photos, and a favourite of Harmer’s, Child of Mine, based on an Egyptian proverb that says, “the dearest child you’ll ever hold is the child of your child.”

“The tissues will be out there,” Harmer suspects, “But I avoid mawkishness and bathos, for God’s sake, it’s a comedy.”

“I do make a pre-recorded appearance as the lady in the front office saying, ‘good evening, ladies, the courtesy bus is ready.’ It’s all a bit of a hoot and people should go and have a laugh.” 

The Grandparents’ Club – A Comedy Musical, The Playhouse, July 13 and 14 (both with matinees). 

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Helen Musa

Helen Musa

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