Gangsta Granny Review

Civic Theatre, Darlington – 24 May 2016

This hilarious and moving story from David Walliams is a story of prejudice and acceptance.

Ben is bored beyond belief after he is made to stay at his grandma’s house. She’s the boringest grandma ever: all she wants to do is to play Scrabble, and eat cabbage soup. But Ben doesn’t know she is a Gangsta Granny.

Walliams described Birmingham Stage Company’s touring adaptation of Gangsta Granny after its opening-night performance: “A fantastic show. It’s so much better than the book!” so you can’t get much higher praise

Everything about director/adaptor Neal Foster’s approach is fun, colourful sets unfold like picture-book pop-outs, there’s a lot of music and every comic opportunity is grasped (gran’s mobility scooter is a slow-moving hoot); there’s even an up-to-the-minute gag about 5p plastic bags.  The production itself is full of vigour and the cast are rarely offstage, doubling as dancing set-changers even when they are not in a scene. All of them display great energy, which never drops

Told through the eyes of 11 year old Ben (Ashley Cousins). Each Friday night whilst his self-obsessed parents go off to ballroom dance and watch Strictly Stars Dancing, Ben is unceremoniously dumped at his grandma’s with hardly a word of hello.

There will be cabbage soup, cabbage pie and cabbage cake and Ben knows one thing for sure – it’s going to be sooooooooo boring! But when Ben discovers some gems in a biscuit tin and realises his Granny (Gilly Tompkins)  has a secret, life becomes much more exciting for both of them.  Carefully treading a moral line, the story tells us that Granny never profited from her crimes, committed them only for the “buzz” and has come to the view that stealing is wrong. Nevertheless, she has never succeeded in her dream of stealing (and returning) the Crown Jewels. Can Ben use his encyclopaedic knowledge of plumbing to help Granny pull off the crime of the century, even under the nose of Mr Parker, local neighbourhood watch supremo and busybody?

The characters are very much larger than life and almost pantomime-like, but this adds to the energy of the piece which moves along at a cracking pace and holds the younger audience members attention. Add in a slick, detailed and well-designed rotating set, some niftily choreographed scene changes and some colourful costumes and you have a rounded production which is appealing and enjoyable.

This play because it appeals to all ages and is not gender specific. It is relevant to today’s society where old people can be viewed as insignificant. This play has a comical way of dealing with this stereotype, turning it completely on its head.  Filled with laughter and farts, its funny and poignant and a fabulous night out

In Darlington until Saturday 28th and on tour around the UK