CentralComedyDramaFamilyReview

Gangsta Granny – Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton

Reviewer: Selwyn Knight

Writer: David Walliams

Adaptor and Director: Neal Foster

Ben hates Fridays. That’s the day his parents enjoy some special time at dance class so Ben is sent to stay with Granny. It’s the most boring night of the week: nothing ever happens and everything Granny cooks is based on cabbage. But Ben is a good boy: he doesn’t want to let anyone down, going along half-heartedly with his mother’s plans for him to be a great dancer when he’d much rather be a plumber and appearing to Granny to enjoy his time there. Then one day, Granny overhears him pleading with his parents to collect him. She seems changed, then tells him some tall tales about being a retired international jewel thief. The more she tells him, the more exciting she appears and soon they are hatching a plot to combine Ben’s knowledge of plumbing and Granny’s burgling skills to steal the Crown Jewels – provided, Granny says, that they return them the next day. It’s all about the excitement, isn’t it? And anyway, where would you sell them?

Gangsta Granny tells a simple story well, punching home its message without becoming preachy, perfectly pitched at its target audience. At the centre are our two protagonists, Ben (Justin Davies) and Granny (Isabel Ford). Their relationship is well-drawn, developing over the piece as Granny becomes ever more interesting to Ben. Davies is believable as the 11-year-old, helped by his comedic physicality,  and we are behind him all the way as he dreams of a career in plumbing. Ford is likewise great fun as Granny. There’s real chemistry between them and we feel for Ben as he also has to confront the realities around loved ones ageing. The remaining characters, however, are very two-dimensional, barely sketched in and existing solely to support Ben and Granny’s story – Mr ‘Nosey’ Parker of the Neighbourhood Watch (played by Jason Furnival) is a great pantomime villain, eliciting boos and hisses whenever he appears and Irfan Damani’s OTT turn as over-the-hill dance professional Flavio is quite joyous. Others maybe rely more on stereotypes – Damani also brings us Raj, the well-meaning Asian shopkeeper who always has a ridiculous special offer to sell, for example. However, seen in the light of the delight on the youngsters’ faces as Ben and Granny such criticisms are perhaps a little churlish.

Director Neal Foster maintains the lightness of the main story, allowing sadder events to register without becoming overwhelming to the young audience. He also ensures that the pace never flags as the story develops, and this is supported by the ingenious set of designer Jacqueline Trousdale, in which doors open and sections slide in and out of rotating structures to move us seamlessly between such locations as Ben’s room, Granny’s house, a dance competition, a hospital ….

Gangsta Granny provides a simple enough moral around the value of all, including the elderly, and the importance of being true to oneself. It’s told in an engaging way that children really enjoy – indeed, it’s an excellent production to move on to after panto. Life-affirming stuff.

Runs Until 26 February 2022 and on tour

The Reviews Hub Score

The Reviews Hub Score

Totally Gangsta

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The Reviews Hub - Central

The Central team is under the editorship of Selwyn Knight. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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