Spectacular Sheffield arena show Grandpa’s Great Esape Live based on David Walliams story

Grandpa's Great Escape by David Walliams has already been both a number one best-selling book and a hugely popular TV film and now it’s a live show.

Tuesday, 17th December 2019, 11:34 am
Updated Thursday, 19th December 2019, 5:57 pm
David Walliams and stars of Grandpa's Great Escape, a live version of his best-selling children's book
David Walliams and stars of Grandpa's Great Escape, a live version of his best-selling children's book

There are two special Christmas performances of the show at the FlyDSA Arena’s Steel Hall on Sunday, December 29.

David told interviewer James Rampton: “Being in arenas means we can have a life-size Spitfire, a tank, the London landscape and a dramatic escape from the Imperial War Museum."

He adds that, "I’m delighted to be involved with this arena tour of Grandpa’s Great Escape Live, working with fantastic people like the director Sean Foley and Kevin Cecil, who’s written the script. I couldn’t be more excited about it!”

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The story centres on Grandpa, played in the show by Nigel Planer from The Young Ones. ‎Many years ago, he was a Second World War flying ace.

But when he is dispatched to the grim old folk’s home Twilight Towers – run by the villainous Matron Swine - Grandpa and his grandson Jack have to plan an audacious escape. But unbeknown to them, the evil Matron is on their trail.

The sets include Buckingham Palace and the River Thames, seen from thousands of feet in the sky, as Grandpa’s life-size Spitfire soars through the air. They have been been created by Stufish Entertainment Architects, who also work on tours by Cirque du Soleil, Beyonce and Jay Z, Madonna and The Rolling Stones.

David said: "‎I wanted this to be really spectacular.

"Some of my stories are more intimate than others, but this felt like a big spectacular. ‎It’s great because we can really go to town with all of those elements and this story demands that scale.

“If people have already read the book, you have to give them something that is different and bigger and better."

‎David, who has starred in such hit TV shows as Little Britain, Come Fly with Me, Big School and Walliams & Friend, believes it is the perfect show for all the family. “My son is six. At the shows I take him to, the spectacle is often more important than the story.

“Because younger children are sometimes not following the intricacies of the plot, they are sitting there in wonder at those elements. I really want to foreground that in Grandpa’s Great Escape Live ‎and make sure it’s super spectacular.”

He added: “It’s great that we are on at Christmas. It’s a real cross-generational story. It is about the special relationship between a grandson and a grandfather. Its a story that can be shared across the generations.”

The story mixes comedy with tragedy. David said: “The book is a good balance between adventure, humour and emotion.

“There is a very serious part of it in that Grandpa is losing his memory and thinks he’s back in the Second World War. A lot of people are affected by that issue of dementia.

“I also had the idea of old people escaping from a home and making it like The Great Escape, which is comic. I was trying to balance out those elements.

“At first, I was worried that they couldn't coexist, but actually the comedy informs the tragedy.

“The fact that Grandpa thinks he's trying to escape from a POW camp rather than an old people’s home makes it natural that it would be a Second World War-style escape.”

He added: “I hope it will reinvigorate people's interest in the Second World War and remind them of the special connection between grandparents and grandchildren.

"So many ‎of my childhood memories are of being with my grandparents because they were so out of the ordinary. I did things with them that I never did with my parents, like going to the panto.”