Following the abundance of his successful titles, and adapted from the critically acclaimed children's book of the same name, Gangsta Granny is the next of David Walliams' pieces to hit the stage. Having embarked upon its UK tour, the show is currently playing at the Bloomsbury Theatre, in London.
Ben (performed by Justin Davies) hates staying with his granny every Friday night. He is 11 years old, and finds everything she does extremely boring, especially Scrabble... and she is even obsessed with cabbage! When he suspects granny may be hiding a secret, his entire opinion changes, and he is eager to learn more about her potential exciting and deviant acts. Alongside this, his dance-mad parents are desperate for him to follow their dreams of being a professional, though Ben aspires to be a plumber.
The set for the show, designed by Jacqueline Trousdale, is ingenious. Spread across the large stage, what first appears to be nothing special, transforms seamlessly into the different scenes: from Ben's home to granny's house, to Raj's shop or perhaps the Tower of London. With slick, fluid transitions to piece it all together, it works brilliantly for this show. Also creating the concepts behind the huge array of costumes used, Jacqueline showcases a range of vibrant outfits, with my personal favourites being the cabbages and Quality Streets! The elephants were a beautiful and unexpected addition too.
Isabel Ford does a wonderfully hilarious job of becoming 'Granny', encapsulating the quirky personality to perfection. Jess Nesling and Jason Furnival take on the roles of 'Mum' and 'Dad' respectively, and act well as the dynamic dancing couple. Jess also becomes the iconic 'Queen' later on in the plot, whereas Jason doubles up to be 'Mr Parker', the creepy neighbour. 'Raj' and 'Flavio' are both played by Irfan Damani, who adds that extra layer of comedic effect, particularly with his persistence with selling his (awful!) promotions in his corner shop. Paul Duckworth, Jemma Geanaus, Iskandar Eaton and Mared Lewis complete this great cast.
Heavily playing on stereotypes, and subsequently being an accurate reflection of the book, the exaggerated and caricatured personas slightly take their toll. However, because it is made for children, this does make it simple to understand, and the storyline itself is neatly done. The first act itself was fantastic, while the second felt a little lacklustre to begin with. It is understood as to why more audience involvement was encouraged during the dance competition section, though it does appear to lose a bit of traction here when becoming panto-esque. Nearer the end of the show, there are elements that are intended to be thought provoking, and perhaps touching, which contrasts the lighthearted humour embedded throughout. It isn't particularly clear as to whether this works, as it isn't some big, glorious ending of happiness to a piece that may make more sense to be that way, but does provide closure in a more heart warming manner. Asking the audience to get up and dance to finish beings a more cheerful tone back into the room again.
Packed with fun and silliness, Gangsta Granny is a high quality production that can be entertaining, not only for children, but adults after something a bit different. So if Ben and his granny are zooming by you on that mobility scooter, it may be worth considering the surprise that this show brings.