Hull New Theatre – until 8th July 2018
Reviewed by Catherine McWilliams
Towards the end of the performance Ben, our hero, says “Tonight was wicked” and the little girl behind me summed up the feelings of the packed Hull New Theatre when she shouted back “oh yeah it was!”
From start to finish this is a cracking play that all ages in the audience loved. The little girl next to me was about 4 years old and just couldn’t stay still while we were waiting for Gangsta Granny to start but once it started she was wrapped up in the entire performance and clearly loved every minute.
Gangsta Granny is superbly adapted from the David Walliams novel by Neal Foster and is another fabulous Birmingham Stage Company production. The scenery is very clever, with its movement being skillfully incorporated into the play, adding glitz and fun to a mundane task! The choreography ( Paul Chantry and Rae Piper) is excellent and adds some wonderfully funny moments to the performance.
Gangsta Granny tells the story of Ben (Tom Cawte) who lives with his Mum (Jenny Gayner) and Dad (Jason Furnival) who are desperate for him to be a dancer rather than the plumber he wants to be. Every Friday night Ben has to go to his Granny’s house whilst Mum and Dad go dancing. To Ben this is the worst night of the week as Granny is boring and her favourite food is …cabbage – cue major groans from the children! But Granny is the cabbage queen her recipes include cabbage pie, cabbage soup and cabbage crème brulee. Then Ben discovers that Granny is a jewel thief and he plans a spectacular robbery for them both. This is a story that every youngster can relate to, imagining themselves as Ben.
Tom Cawte is outstanding as Ben, he captures an 11 year old’s frustrations and gawky movements wonderfully and his facial expressions clearly showed what he was thinking without him uttering a word. His dance at the dance competition was inspired and had me laughing like a drain, but the youngsters around me were all rooting for Ben to do well and were screaming at the judges’ scores!
Lauren Taylor was a brilliant Granny, her performance was just right and never over the top. She showed us a full range of emotions beautifully, but had the children once she bottom burped! Her performance near the end was particularly touching.
Mum (Jenny Gayner) and Dad (Jason Furnival) hit it just right as a couple obsessed with dancing and “Strictly” and their car dance will stay with me – so funny.
Jason Furnival also provided the character for the children to shout at and hate as Mr. Parker. He was wonderfully obnoxious and played the part to perfection. I hadn’t even realised that he was also playing Dad until I read the programme, a superb contrast. The ensemble cast all play their parts to perfection, adding to the enjoyment as they quickly switch characters.
A superb night out at the theatre, this will leave you with a huge smile on your face and a lovely feeling in your tummy!! Whatever your age grab the chance to go and see Gangsta Granny, you will love it.