Lisa Gornick is busy working the room as the audience arrive, sat behind a desk mixing tunes on her iPod (Kylie, Lisa Stansfield), airily chatting in the mic (“What’s your name, babes?”), sketching audience members, with the results broadcast on the big screen next to her. Part Tony Blackburn, part Tony Hart, it’s a curious introduction to this illustrated storytelling show.
Gornick is here to tell the story of her late grandmother, a Jewish Cockney with an intriguing past. She live sketches aspects of the tale – the flapper dresses her grandmother wore, the chimneys of the East End – dropping in family photos, diary extracts and period music to provide a well-rounded picture of the Roaring Twenties.
For a while, it all seems fairly unremarkable, the family history of many of that generation. But the story’s worth perservering with. It steps up a gear when we reach her own university days, and we get a change of music (we’re in the era of 80s student bedsit earnestness), a change of tack and, most importantly, Gornick adds more of herself to the story. The conclusion, in which Gornick, with her own inner conflicts, finds out secrets from her grandmother in her final days, definitely merits the telling.
But the constant air of children’s entertainment sits jarringly with the ultimately adult theme of the show. Often sketches outlast the stories they’re meant to illustrate too, leaving her paddling to the end. Gornick’s very good at different voices and accents, but instead of using these to the full, sometimes they’re just padding while she finishes off her latest doodle. So, while she’s found a good story to engage the listener, she’s stretched it out awkwardly with the unusual manner in which it’s told.