The books of David Walliams and the theatrical knowhow of the Birmingham Stage Company are a match made in heaven.
The company has a successful track record of adapting books such as Horrible Histories and George’s Marvellous Medicine for the stage and so Walliams’s hugely popular book Gangsta Granny provides the perfect material for their latest offering.
Adapted and directed by BSC’s Neal Foster, the production wowed an enthusiastic young audience at Derby Theatre on the night I attended.
By the end, they were up on their feet dancing and this was a production that really knew which buttons to press to give its audience a fantastic theatrical experience.
Script, direction, acting, music, stage design and sound all came together in a just about perfect package.
In Gangsta Granny, young Ben, who is somewhat overlooked by his ballroom dancing-obsessed parents, is packed off to his granny’s house each Friday night. In his eyes, she seems to have nothing going for her - and her love of cabbage-based food and drink offerings is particularly offputting - until Ben discovers she may well have a secret, far more exciting life.
From this point on, the stage is perfectly set for the pair’s adventures which eventually see them heading for the Tower of London to attempt to pull off an audacious heist.
Ashley Cousins centred the proceedings perfectly as young Ben, yearning for some excitement in his life and finding it right under his nose. Gilly Tompkins is the ideal embodiment of Gangsta Granny herself, delivered a performance of real warmth and with a winning twinkle in her eye, while there is very entertaining support from Benedict Martin and Louise Bailey as Ben’s parents. They also double up to very good effect as both The Queen and villain of the piece Mr Parker, the nosey neighbour from hell.
Praise too for the ingenious multi-purpose sets and also the manner of the scene changes themselves, pulled off by often dancing cast members in fine style.
Gangsta Granny is at Derby Theatre until Saturday, November 20, and offers a brilliant theatrical treat for all the family. Catch it if you can.
Call the box office for ticket availability on 01332 593939.
Photo by Mark Douet