Neal Foster’s adaptation of David Walliams best selling children’s book has plenty of laughter (and dancing) to entertain kids of all ages.
Birmingham Stage Company is well known for bringing some of the most popular children’s books to the stage and with this adaptation of Gangsta Granny, the company has another hit on their hands.
The story follows Ben who hates staying with his Granny every Friday evening while his parents go to their dance class. But he soon discovers that there is more than meets the eye about Granny than he originally thought – as by night she turns into a master criminal!
Filled with a variety of wacky and over the top characters, Neal Foster’s production has kept the spirit of David Walliams alive through every characterisation and every flamboyant dance move (of which there are many). It is certainly a lively production that keeps the audience entertained whether it is the countless jokes referring to bottoms and farts or the element of excitement as Ben creates a plan to steal the crown jewels.
But underneath the humour, there is a real sense of poignancy that are really heartfelt – such as when Granny realises her daughter-in-law is too busy to pop in and have a chat with her, highlighting her loneliness as well as the bigger problem in society of elderly people living in isolation with virtually no company. The ending also feels very bittersweet as Ben waves goodbye to his Granny – with no words needed to convey the sense of loss.
All of this is wonderfully brought to life by some lovely performances from Gilly Tompkins as Granny and Ashley Cousins as Ben, with their onstage relationship wonderfully affectionate and heartwarming to watch. Tomkins gives Granny enough of a feisty spirit to give the character as much impact as possible but with a great sense of comic timing to ensure that the audience don’t take her too seriously. Meanwhile, Cousins as Ben is sweetly charming and you can really root for him in terms of standing up to his parents and to follow his dreams to become a plumber.
Benedict Martin also delivers a suitably slimy performance as Granny’s next door neighbour Mr Parker, delivered with flamboyance and subtle nastiness that the children seem to enjoy booing – ensuring that his performance is a success.
At times however, the production is in danger of getting carried away with itself particularly with the dance contest sequence feeling slightly too long and a bit of a distraction. The constant references to Strictly and Ben’s parents love of dance also feel like distractions rather than a subplot that combines easily with the main story.
But these minor flaws aside, this is a production that makes the most of the silliness and flamboyance of David Walliams’ story to the full. Well worth a watch no matter whether you or your child has read the book or not.
Gangsta Granny continues to play at the Garrick Theatre until the 3rd September. To book tickets visit: Ticketmaster.co.uk, See Tickets.com, Discount Theatre.com, Theatre Tickets Direct.co.uk, Love Theatre.com, Last Minute.com, Theatre People.com and UK Tickets.co.uk.