Writer: David Walliams
Adaptor and Director: Neal Foster
Reviewer: Carol Lovatt
David Walliams is a comic genius. Whether it involves writing comedy or acting himself, Walliams has talent in bucket loads. Famous for his role in creating Little Britain and Come Fly With Me with his co-writer Matt Lucas. Walliams has also proved himself as an award winning author of children’s books and one publication that is much loved by young and old is undoubtedly Gangsta Granny.
Gangsta Granny is a play about a boy who wants to be a plumber, a lucrative and sought after profession these days, and a Granny who loves an adrenalin rush and who is not quite ready for just the predictable routine of wearing her slippers and knitting numerous fluffy jumpers. It is a heart-warming and gloriously funny story about love and loss and navigating the obstacles of ageing, whether a teen or of advancing years. It’s a poignant narrative of crazy busy families and the shameful neglect of the elderly. As such, it reflects modern day British society but with an uplifting, life affirming comical stance on the seemingly impossible being quite feasible, with a very creative imagination.
The truth of the matter is everybody has to face such challenges in life and Walliams is quite brilliant at interweaving a poignant narrative with some seriously laugh out loud comedic prose and bringing it all together to move and enthral the reader.
Adapter and director Neal Foster has created a seamless production which marries a talented cast with some extremely multitasking and clever set design. The stage is transformed from living room to ballroom to hospital and then to the Tower of London with impressive ease and simplicity. It all makes this play quick paced and very exciting.
loneliness Ashley Cousins who plays Ben is a joy to watch. A young actor with charm, energy and perfect timing, he has been brilliantly cast and is definitely one to watch out for in future acting roles. Gilly Tomkins is extremely funny and charismatic as Ben’s far from boring Granny. There is more to this elderly ‘cool cat’ than meets the eye. It would be unjust to imagine that this Granny is merely a maker of all things cabbage. In fact, there is something rather criminal lurking beneath the innocent cardigan and sweet ‘little old lady’ persona of Tomkin’s convincing portrayal. Could she be a Gangsta?
Louise Bailey is hilarious as Ben’s ballroom dancing obsessed mum and also positively regal as HRH the Queen as she executes both roles with gusto and finesse. Benedict Martin’s characterisation of the nosy Mr Parker, played with seedy, creepy and jobsworth pathos is mesmerising and is quite reminiscent of some of the Little Britain individuals who made audiences laugh and stare aghast at the TV screens in unison as well as yet again emphasising Walliam’s command and understanding of human nature with all its flaws and idiosyncrasies. Umar Malik also gives a flamboyant performance as Flavio, the darling of the ballroom and as Raj, the newsagent with an eye to maximise profits and an ear to listen out for his community.
Gangsta Granny by Birmingham Stage Company is a must-see show to delight the whole family.
Runs until Sat 11 June.