Timothy Nixon and Callum Adkins in Call Me John

The links between the generations and our desire to be remembered are explored in this charming and gentle play.

Call Me John tells the story of an octogenarian who has decided the time has come to write down his life story, and his grandson Ashley who encourages the retelling as he does odd jobs around the house to help.

John’s memories are in some ways nothing that extraordinary for a man of his generation – young love, the embrace of family, the darkness of war – but that in itself is the point; we all deserve to be remembered.

Megan Durrant’s script is neatly crafted, with a fractured narrative that allows John’s story to be told sometimes in first person, sometimes through Ashley playing the young version of his grandad.

The deceptively simple set is key to this: at first it seems like a crude set of wooden boxes, but as they are repositioned and turned, they reveal port holes and train wheels that form an impressionistic backdrop to the unfolding tale.

Timothy Nixon plays John as a relatable old man, mostly warm but with a flash of wit. He doesn’t quite convince when he gets into the vernacular – it takes a certain twang to get away with calling someone a rum un in Norfolk – but is otherwise convincingly natural.

As Ashley, Callum Adkins happily inhabits his relaxed character, but reaches deeper when channelling the rawness of both the twentysomething’s pandemic experiences, and portraying the young John in the heat of war.

The story was inspired by director Callan Durrant’s great grandfather and it stands as a proud tribute, and a very enjoyable 70 minutes of theatre.

  • Call Me John by Reflex Theatre is at Aylsham Town Hall on Friday, March 8; and Anteros Art Foundation, Norwich on Saturday, March 9.