21 April 2022
The success of David Walliams’ books for children cannot be denied and their transition to television and stage have also created new audiences for his works. First published in 2011, Gangsta Granny was adapted for TV in 2013 and then for the stage in 2017. This is a hugely enjoyable, warm and very funny play with so much to appreciate whether you be a young child or an old one.
Young Ben is tired of his regular visits to his boring Granny which he does each week while his parents go ballroom dancing. When he discovers she has a stash of jewels, things go into overdrive as they start off on an adventure of a lifetime!
Neal Foster’s excellent adaptation, retains all the charm of the original story and makes plentiful use of references to farting and poo – which the audience adore! The strong story moves with pace and the small cast throw everything into their performances.
A quite wonderful set, designed by Jacqueline Trousdale, is full of pull-out beds and opening-out shops – it’s as inventive a small set as I have seen in a long time. Jason Taylor provides a very effective lighting design and Nick Sagar offers a wide range of sound effects; the sound operator is absolutely spot-on with every cue. Backing the whole show is a smart and fun musical score from Jak Poore.
As the title character, Isabel Ford is just perfect. Her ‘Granny’ is a wonderful creation with a range of facial expressions which never wipes a smile off your face. Justin Davies, while rather older than the 11yo character of Ben, is completely convincing in so many ways; the boyish enthusiasm, the frustrations and the energy are all there in abundance. Have no doubts, this isn’t an easy character to bring off and he succeeds in spades – a very impressive performance. There is a wonderful chemistry between these actors which is so essential to the story and gives it a depth and emotional involvement. Jason Furnival combines the awful Dad with the worse Mr Parker – an extraordinary creation of walks, and voices, ticks and facial contortions – the audience loved it. Jess Nesling also combines two parts, Ben’s Mum – obsessed with dancing and HM The Queen – both parts carried off with aplomb and, especially the latter, with tongue firmly in cheek.
Excellent support is also offered by Iskander Eaton in a variety of parts from the shopkeeper Raj to the professional dancer Flavio.
Adaptor, Neal Foster, directs with lucidity and skill; crafting a wonderful piece of theatre for all to enjoy. Birmingham Stage Company should receive all the plaudits they deserve for the production.
This is escapist fun at its very best and I cannot recommend it enough. It is a great example of how a small show can entrance an audience for two hours and leave them feeling warm inside and thoroughly entertained. If you hadn’t thought about seeing it, get tickets now – it’s fantastic!
CAST & CREATIVES
GRANNY – ISABEL FORD
BEN – JUSTIN DAVIES
DAD & MR PARKER – JASON FURNIVAL
MUM & QUEEN – JESS NESLING
RAJ & FLAVIO – ISKANDER EATON
DOCTOR & POLICEMAN – PAUL DUCKWORTH
MATRON & WPC – JEMMA GEANAUS
ENSEMBLE – MARED LEWIS
ADAPTOR & DIRECTOR – NEAL FOSTER
DESIGNER – JACQUELINE TROUSDALE
LIGHTING DESIGN – JASON TAYLOR
SOUND DESIGN – NICK SAGAR
COMPOSER – JAK POORE
CHOREOGRAPHY – PAUL CHANTRY & RAE PIPER
A BIRMINGHAM STAGE COMPANY PRODUCTION