David Walliams is one of our most popular children’s authors having sold over 10 million books around the world. What a treat then, that one of his best selling books Gangsta Granny has been adapted for the stage by Neal Foster and was showing this week at Richmond Theatre.
The little S.H.I.Ts adore Walliams’ quirky, socially outcast characters – none so much as Granny and her gangsta past. Ben, a lonely 11 year old, is forced to spend every Friday night at her house as his parents enjoy their “date night”. This generally involves some form of “Strictly Stars Dancing” as they are as fanatical about the reality dance show as they are about each other. Nobody, however, is fanatical about Granny, least of all Ben, who dreads his Friday nights spent eating her cabbage soup, cabbage casserole and cabbage cake and playing scrabble. You can only imagine the amount of flatulence that is let off on stage due to all that cabbage which the children naturally found hilarious.
All is not as it seems though when Ben discovers Granny’s biscuit tin full of hidden jewels. Soon her exciting, secret past as the “Black Cat” – one of the world’s most revered thiefs – is revealed. Someone who seemed to be the most boring person in his life, suddenly becomes the most fascinating, and their new bond gives them both a lease of life.
Gilly Tompkins shines as Granny and plays both the typecast frumpy, cardigan-wearing old lady and the dynamic burglar, dressed head to toe in black (albeit on a mobility scooter with a maximum speed of 3mph) with equal comedy. 18 year old Ashley Cousins portrays Ben with great energy, though his performance lacks variety and his lines sometimes get missed as he shouts them out with such vigour. His parents (played by Laura Girling and Benedict Martin) are farcical in their love for “Strictly”. The dance theme runs throughout with various members of the cast dancing on and off stage while smoothly making set changes to a background of the “Strictly Stars Dancing” theme music. This ensures the children are constantly entertained.
As with all of Walliams’ stories, there is a strong moral message to children: not to dismiss the elderly but to spend time with them as they are sure to have exciting stories to tell. This comes across in the theatre production as much as in the book and while my children were amused throughout by the comedy, they certainly came away with this important message.
The icing on the cake had to be when David Walliams himself, appeared on the stage at the end. When he said “Well of course I haven’t read the book myself…” the delight of the audience, both old and young, was apparent, as is the love for this favourite children’s author. I wonder which of his books will make it on to the stage next?
Following rave reviews, Gangsta Granny will be embarking on a UK tour before opening at the Garrick Theatre in August 2017.
For ticket information go to www.atgtickets.com