REVIEW: 'Gangsta Granny' is heartwarming and full of laughs - perfect for all the family

PUBLISHED: 12:00 26 October 2016

Ben and Granny prepare to pull off the biggest heist ever, by stealing the Crown Jewels from the Tower of London.

Ben and Granny prepare to pull off the biggest heist ever, by stealing the Crown Jewels from the Tower of London.

Photo by Mark Douet

Just in time for half-term, David Walliams' 'Gangsta Granny' reminds us to listen to and love our 'boring' older relatives - because we'll soon come to regret it if we don't...

Granny with her cabbageGranny with her cabbage

The protagonist, Ben (Ashley Cousins), whose greatest joy comes from reading the latest issue of Plumbing Weekly, is an 11-year-old boy living out his worst nightmare.

His flamboyant Strictly-obsessed parents (Louise Bailey and Ben Martin) - who at first dismiss his dreams of becoming a plumber, insisting he chooses the world of ballroom dance - ship Ben off to boring old granny’s (Gilly Tompkins) for another Friday night of fun which consists of Scrabble and cabbage soup/mousse/cake/coffee...

You name it, Granny’s made it - with cabbage the key ingredient, of course!

After discovering granny’s big secret, she’s certainly no longer boring: “you’re my Gangsta Granny!” Ben exclaims joyfully. Like a ninja on a mobility scooter, it’s not long until Granny (who comes across like a much more pleasant version of Catherine Tate’s ‘Nan’) and Ben (eyes lit up with excitement for the first time) are planning the biggest heist in the world... to steal the Crown Jewels from the Tower of London.

With clever, intricate set design and entertaining scene changes, when Ben finds himself in a cabbage-infested nightmare it’s one of the funniest scenes in the first act; as is watching the daring duo have a go at rapping (they sure could give Honey G a run for her money).

Raj (Umar Malik) is consistently hilarious as a shopkeeper who just loves tempting Ben with special offers - even if his Cornetto’s are decades out of date. He comes across like the wise owl of the film, encouraging Ben to get to know his Granny a little better.

Ben’s parents, who must have changed their costumes at least six times, really sparkle throughout: a security guard and nail technician by day they may be, but at night they relive their hopes of becoming professional dancers.

In the second act, during a Strictly-esque dance-off, the pushy parents clamber into the seats just behind us - keeping a look of shock and exasperation on their faces all the while. It’s commendable acting and encourages some great crowd participation.

The supporting cast also impress: Mr Parker, a nosey Neighbourhood Watch character who peaks in on Granny doing her “naked yoga” is like Norris from ‘Coronation Street’... But he soon gets told where to go by Matron (Alison Fitzjohn).

Whilst there are laughs a minute throughout the Birmingham Stage Company adaptation of the hugely successful children’s book, the emotional ending will leave many with a lump in their throat and a tear in their eye.

‘Gangsta Granny’ is at the Cambridge Arts Theatre until Saturday, 29. To book, visit https://www.cambridgeartstheatre.com or http://birminghamstage.com/shows/gangsta-granny-by-david-walliams-comes-to-the-stage

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