Theatre Review: David Walliams Gangsta Granny

This summer the Birmingham Stage Company are touring the UK with their theatre production of the popular David Walliams Gangsta Granny book. We went along to The Lowry Theatre in Salford Quays watch it.

We’ve yet to read the book, but we’ve watched TV adaptations of David Walliams’ Mr Stink and Gangsta Granny and we knew to expect silliness, smells and a heartwarming message underneath it all.

The book was originally published in 2011, and went straight to number 1 in the children’s book charts. David Walliams Gangsta Granny was later adapted for TV and was shown on BBC1 in 2013, starring David Walliams and a host of other popular personalities. 

David Walliams Gangsta Granny

David Walliams Gangsta Granny tells the tale of schoolboy Ben who is sent to stay with his Granny every weekend so his parents can go out ballroom dancing. Ben thinks she is the boringest Grandma ever. All she wants to do is to play Scrabble and eat cabbage soup, but what he doesn’t know is that his Granny was once an international jewel thief known as “The Black Cat”. Very soon Friday nights are the highlight of Ben’s week, as together they plan a daring raid on the Crown Jewels.

The two stars of the show, Ben played by Ashley Cousins and Granny played by Gilly Tompkins are fabulous. Granny, although small, stooped and grey steals virtually every scene. Her occasional cabbage trumps have the audience of small children and their parents giggling – all it needs is a cabbage scented scratch and sniff card to complete the effect.

Ben’s parents are meant to be annoying, and they are. His whiny, self-centred mum especially so, though I did enjoy the almost Mr Bean-like performance from Benedict Martin who plays both Ben’s Dad and nosy neighbour Mr Parker.

David Walliams Gangsta Granny

The supporting cast help to keep the pace up, Umar Malik is notable as penny-pinching but wise shopkeeper Raj and slimy dancer Flavio, and Louise Bailey as the Queen who is rather partial to cabbage soup and doesn’t mind the unfortunate side effects.

Gangsta Granny is full of glorious slapstick humour, it’s colourful, glittery, drab, funny, serious, silly and sad in equal measure. I wasn’t quite expecting to come away so affected by the moral of the story – just because someone is old it doesn’t mean they are invisible. 

Loneliness, especially in old age is a terrible thing, and it’s something I’m particularly mindful of. If Gangsta Granny encourages more people to speak to and check up on their elderly relatives and neighbours, then that’s a very excellent thing indeed. You never know, the nice old lady next door might have been an international jewel thief with a million pounds worth of treasure in a biscuit tin in her kitchen!

David Walliams Gangsta Granny

We thoroughly enjoyed Gangsta Granny, there were laugh out loud moments all the way through, lots of slapstick, funny smells and a thought provoking moral to the story – what more could you want?

The Birmingham Stage Company are currently touring David Walliams Gangsta Granny around the UK. You can find the tour dates here.

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