Gangsta Granny at the Theatre Royal – Review

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Gangsta Granny, Theatre Royal, Brighton (4/5 Stars)

Last night the Birmingham Stage Company premiered David Walliams’ infamous Gangsta Granny at the Theatre Royal. Gangsta Granny became a househould name after the book came out five years ago, and became so popular that it has been reprinted several times and was also shortlisted for The Red House Children’s Book Award and the Roald Dahl Funny Prize.

I watched this popular story’s world premier with my six year old daughter who was glued excitedly to her chair throughout, and can report that on the whole the production is a success. It starts with a bang and the excitement and the energy is maintained throughout the show. Even the scene changes have been made entertaining and upbeat so that the audience don’t experience a dull moment or let-up in the fun – vitally important for a younger audience who could otherwise become impatient.

Gangsta Granny_ Photo by Mark Douet C31B4410
Main character Ben at the corner shop where he buys his favourite plumbing magazine.

The Strightly Come Dancing backdrop is made the most of, making the show more lively. Having the actors burst into apparently impromptu dance routines while they’re changing the set in between scenes is also a really clever way of making the most of the small space available. The fact that the performances were not overly polished added to the comic relief and good fun vibe and energy.

All of the cast members delivered energetic and enjoyably over-the-top performances, which in general didn’t verge on the irritating. The only possible exception was Umar Malik’s Spanish ballroom star and dance show presenter. Following his amusing portrayal of an Indian corner shop owner, this could possibly have been a little less overstated. There is a fine line between animated acting and over-indulgent performance in children’s plays.

Otherwise the cast all gave a good account of themselves. Gilly Tompkins’ Granny and Ashley Cousins’ Ben are the deserved stars of a good production, interacting well with the rest of the cast without detracting from other performances. Gilly Tompkins felt a little young for the role, but gave a believable, engaging and sympathetic performance. Ashley Cousins gave everything he had in another fine, if phlegmatic performance. Thankfully the aforementioned phlegm didn’t reach the audience!

Overall Gangsta Granny is a good show, bursting with joyful humour. David Walliams’ comic skill and sense of humour shone throughout, making this production perfect for the whole family to enjoy.

Additional review by Minerva (6 years old)

Wow it is so funny and so detailed! Everything has a meaning. For example the color of the light. When someone is grumpy it becomes red and when someone is happy it becomes white. Can I have the book? I don’t want to forget about it. I want to remember it all the time.’

Gangsta Granny plays at the Theatre Royal until 06 March. Tickets cost £21.90.

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Photos by Mark Douet

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