Grown Up Orphan Annie ★★★★

Grown Up Orphan Annie sees Katherine Bourne Taylor tracing the story of the classic character after the ending of the musical

The transition from child to adulthood can be a challenging one. Even more so if you are in the public eye. If you ever wondered what happened to that relentlessly optimistic little scamp after she was adopted by America’s richest billionaire, Katherine Bourne Taylor’s Grown Up Orphan Annie has the answers.

Images by Megan Amber

When we meet Orphan Annie as an adult (played to nuanced perfection by Katherine Bourne Taylor), despite her natural upbeat nature, her grown-up life has had some hard knocks. Following an estrangement with her adopted father, Daddy Warbucks – who in case we forget is an oil tycoon and a war baron, the clue’s in the name! – he has passed away leaving Annie nothing. As Shakespeare warned “When sorrows come, they come not single spies” and we learn of the betrayal of her sidekick, her pet dog Sandy. And now, she doesn’t even own the rights to the songs that made her famous. Think of her as a redheaded Taylor Swift.

Determined to stick up her chin and grin at such misfortune,  she has become a woman with a mission. (Annie, not Taylor) Or several missions to be precise. To befriend the members of the audience. To find a new sidekick. And to propel herself to stardom again. Or at least out of her dire financial situation – which extends even beyond playing the Edinburgh Fringe!

Image by The Recs
What works so well with Grown Up Orphan Annie is that Bourne Taylor adds layer upon layer to the script she penned. In part, it’s something of an absurdist character comedy. There are certainly some very funny moments that knowingly lampoon how showbiz will happily trade personal grief for publicity. A eulogy to Daddy Warbucks (complete with Mariah-esque wind-machine aesthetics) turns into an attempt to create a viral moment to relaunch her career. This on-the-surface humorous sequence reveals the grit and graft under the grin. There’s something that rings so true for a character who grew up in an orphanage and thrived by being a people pleaser, doing what was necessary to survive.
A throwaway line, about knowing what makes an older men happy sitting next to the admission that Daddy Warbucks was the first person to make her feel safe, plunges the show into much darker, uncomfortable territory. The terrible sense that Annie as a child star was a cash cow for people in power shines a light on her excess of talent and her dearth of agency.
What Bourne Taylor conveys with real subtlety is the pain beneath the pep. It’s that kind of fragility you recognise when people tell you that they’re fine one time too often. Her sense of isolation – reinforced even by the show’s sound and light technician failing to flash the lights three times to indicate he wants to join her gang – is first, simply a source of humour but then, by careful seeding, creates a growing bond of empathy with the audience.
It may not be quite the show you were expecting but it is certainly a show that will convince you, that by holding true to yourself that the sun will come… oh apparently our lawyers have advised we cannot finish that sentence.
Grown Up Orphan Annie is beautifully-performed, grown-up comedy with a wonderful balance between humour and pathos. 

Free Keiko, free the Four Stars – ★★★★

Grown Up Orphan Annie Tickets

Grown Up Orphan Annie runs at Gilded Balloon Patter Hoose - Coorie

Book Now