David Walliams’s Gangsta Granny @ Alhambra Theatre, Bradford
David Walliams’s novel Gangsta Granny has been cleverly adapted for stage by the Birmingham Stage Company. It follows the escapades of Ben the 11-year-old protagonist through a bit of a roller-coaster journey. He does seem older than his age suggests, but Ashley Cousins is nevertheless well cast in this role. He is dumped off at his granny’s every Friday night, as his self-obsessed parents go off to watch Strictly Stars Dancing.
His baby sitter, a cabbage-eating granny, convincingly conveyed by Gilly Tompkins, delightfully portrays her humorous nature. Ben learns not to judge a book by its cover, as his ‘old and boring’ granny is very young at heart and has a zest for life. As her secret life is discovered, this comedy adventure takes on a moralistic twist. Her night-time ‘black cat’ wanderings involve some very funny moments. Watch out for the mobility scooter!
The well-lit and colourful set unfolds like a pop-up picture book. The whole cast works hard to keep the scene changes slick and seamless. Rag/ Flavio, one of the Strictly dancers, on whom Ben’s mum has a crush, has the audience howling at one point. The play has some laugh-out-loud moments which are juxtaposed by sad elements, which bring a tear at times. Granny’s snooping Neighbour, Mr Parker, played by Benedict Martin, has superb comedy timing and is very ‘Walliams’.
It is easy to see the popularity of the Walliams’ novels as he is keen to take the audience on so many unexpected twists and turns. It would be a crime to miss it!
Reviewed by Ava Sims on 4th July 2016 at Alhambra Theatre, Bradford until 9th July and touring. Gangsta Granny will also be transferring to the West End’s Garrick theatre in 2017, and will run there from August 1st to September 3rd. For more information and to book your tickets, see here.