Carl Giles characters in ‘first’ musical in Ipswich

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Carl Giles (1916 - 1995) at work in his studio on his farm in Suffolk, June 1948.Image copyright
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Ronald “Carl” Giles was best known for his cartoons which appeared in the Daily and Sunday Express newspapers

The characters created by cartoonist Carl Giles are being brought to life in what is believed to be the first musical based on his works.

Grandma Saves the Day! A Musical About the Giles Family has been written by Phil Willmott for the New Wolsey Theatre in Ipswich.

Set in the late 1980s, it tells the story of the fictional family and their next door neighbours, the Sinkletons.

Mr Willmott said Giles’s cartoons were at the “forefront of British satire”.

Ronald “Carl” Giles, who lived and worked in Suffolk for most of his life, died in 1995, aged 78. He was best known for his cartoons which appeared in the Daily and Sunday Express newspapers for almost 50 years.

The topical comic strips often included characters from the Giles family, including the combative Grandma.

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Grandma was a recurring character in Giles’s cartoons

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Mike Kwasniak

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The musical will feature pop anthems from the 1980s

Mr Willmott said 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 pour over them,” he said. “Entranced by the hilarious little details you could find when you looked hard.

“Unbeknownst to me I was getting a gentle lesson in contemporary politics 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.”

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Giles’s cartoons can be spotted around Ipswich, including at The Woolpack pub

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Mike Kwasniak

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It is thought it is the first time a musical has been created based on the Giles characters

The musical, which opens on 26 April, is based in Ipswich and tells a Romeo and Juliet-esque tale of love between young members of the feuding Giles and Sinkleton families.

It features 1980s pop anthems, including Our House and Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go, and the cast of 12 act against a black and white cartoon-style backdrop.

The play will further cement the relationship between Ipswich and the cartoonist, whose work has been immortalised by a statue in the centre of town.

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The Giles statue in Ipswich commemorates the well-loved Grandma character

The bronze artwork, unveiled in 1993, is positioned with Grandma looking up at the studio window of the former East Suffolk House where Giles used to work.

In 2016 there were hopes that a 15ft mural drawn in an Ipswich pub could be uncovered, as it was believed it had been painted over.

However, the conservation efforts concluded that the drawing was probably on a false wall which had since been removed.

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