Gangsta Granny (Tour) – Children’s Theatre Review

Ben is 11 years old, and every Friday night he has to go and stay with his boring Granny whilst his parents go to their ballroom dancing class. Granny is sweet but very dull, and feeds Ben nothing but cabbage based delights, including cabbage soup, cabbage cake and cabbage mousse. Ben hates going there, but one day discovers a biscuit tin full of precious jewels. It turns out Granny might be a little more interesting than she at first seems... David Walliam’s popular tale is brought to the stage by the Birmingham Stage Company, and provides a fun night out for fans of the book and young audiences alike.

Ashley Cousins is a brilliant Ben and quickly has the young audience on side with his gentle nature and hatred of cabbage. Likewise, Gilly Tompkins makes for a wonderful Gangsta Granny, and her characterful physicality is a delight. It's not easy to run and caper about the stage with a believably bad back! She particularly shines when telling her tales of daring do, and the Russian jewels section provides some of the biggest laughs of the night. The central pair work well together and there's a real sense of camaraderie and love between them. Ben’s exuberant and dance obsessed parents are played by the energetic Rachel Stanley and Benedict Martin. Martin also plays the villain of the piece Mr Parker, intent on getting Ben and his Granny arrested for their daring heist in Act Two. Both Stanley and Martin bring a joyful energy that rounds out the story, particularly Stanley who dances her socks off along with the rest of the ensemble in the scene changes.

Mention to be made also for Liz Garland as the Queen (we were very amused!) and Devesh Kishore as Mr Raj and the flamboyant Flavio. His direct relationship with the audience as Flavio is particularly enjoyable and he knows how to play for laughs with a wink and a nod. The ensemble do a great job of rounding out the story and nimbly skip from character to character, with hardly any room to breathe. They provide a whirlwind of characters that keep the pace of the story flowing nicely.
The set is a thing to behold! What seems like a few bits of ordinary street furniture has the remarkable ability to become a living room, a hospital bed, two bedrooms, a bathroom (with sink!), a corner shop and a ballroom to name just a few locations. With a quick open of a door, a pull of a bar or flip of a cushion, the transformations really do seem magical, and it makes the show great fun to watch. The costume too is to be applauded, particularly Ben’s succession of ridiculous dance costumes. Amazing work from talented designer Jacqueline Trousdale.

Whilst the bittersweet end seems appropriate (no spoilers!) it is gently handled with a nice wrap up of Ben’s story, a slightly heavy-handed message about appreciating your elders and then a brilliant boogie for everyone led by Her Maj. Great fun for young audiences, and you don’t even have to eat a cabbage ice-cream in the interval.

Gangsta Granny
Aylesbury Waterside Theatre
17th May – 21st May, 2017

Then continuing on tour. Details at -

http://birminghamstage.com/shows/gangsta-granny-by-david-walliams-comes-...

© Carly Halse - Reviewed on Wednesday 17th May, 2017

Author's review: 
4