Writer: David Walliams
Music: Jak Poore
Director: Neal Foster
Ten years ago the UK’s best-selling children’s author David Walliams wrote his most popular children’s book Gangsta Granny and to the delight of many young people, the story has been brought to life by Birmingham Stage Company.
The highlight of Granny’s week is having her beloved grandson Ben come to stay every Friday night. Though Ben’s not so thrilled about spending time with her, it’s boring, she makes him play scrabble, feeds him cabbage and even worse, everything stinks of said cabbage. Unfortunately for Ben there’s no alternative, it’s impossible for anything to get in the way of Ben’s mum and dad’s dance obsession and Friday night is firmly reserved for ballroom.
Whilst enduring a night at Granny’s, Ben’s views of his Granny very quickly change when he takes a look in her biscuit tin. To his shock there are no custard creams or ginger snaps, but instead a stash of jewels. Maybe hanging out with Granny isn’t so boring after all!
The set designed by Jackie Trousdale is seemingly simple, yet extremely well thought through and adaptable. Three rotating, unfolding blocks are all that is needed to magically transport us through this story. Scene changes are an absolute delight with music by Jak Poore intermingled with dance and clever characterisations.
The style of the two halves differs greatly. The first half feels like a story, an introduction to the characters and their relationships. The second half has more of a panto feel to it. There’s the opportunity for some audience participation in the form of a Strictly Come Dancing spoof, then a very welcome opportunity for the audience to join in with some dancing at the end which really appeals to the younger audience members.
Jason Furnival plays two great parts, Ben’s dad and Mr Parker – the name says it all: a member of the local neighbourhood watch and all round busy body, he brings humour and boos a plenty from the audience. Isabel Ford depicts the essence of a good old-fashioned Grandmother – who doesn’t remember and still wince at getting their face wiped with a tissue with spit on?!
Walliams’ story and the characterisations in this work are perfectly pitched at the whole family. There’s nothing offensive, just heart-warming, silly humour with lots of trumping interspersed. That said, it would be remiss to ignore the undertone of this story, the sadness of older people being forgotten and dismissed by the younger generations. It would be impossible not to leave the theatre without a thought for Granny and those she represents close to you.
Runs until 2nd October 2021