Last Updated on July 23, 2021
Billionaire Boy by David Walliams
Bestselling children’s author David Walliams has a string of successful stage productions behind him including the RSCs fabulous production of The Boy in the Dress and the award-winning Gangsta Granny which took the West End by storm in 2017. Now the Birmingham Stage Company have brought David Walliams’s second adaptation of Billionaire Boy, to the West End for the first time, brilliantly adapted for the stage by Neal Foster who also directs the show.
Billionaire Boy opens on a stage stacked high with hundreds of loo rolls which appear to form the shape of a castle. This amusing set is designed by Jacqueline Trousdale who artfully captures the book’s original illustrations.
Twelve-year-old Joe Spud, expertly portrayed by Mathew Gordon, sits at his giant TV screen playing racing games and winning yet another game against himself. It’s Joe’s birthday and his dad gives him a very large cheque, just the same as last year… sadly not what he was really hoping for, as Joe just wants his dad’s time and attention.
Dad (played with a gangly charm by Benedict Martin) is a self-made billionaire, who has transformed his very ordinary existence of working in a loo roll factory to the life of unprecedented riches after inventing a two-sided loo roll – dry on one side and wet on the other….Bum Fresh!
Joe has everything most young boys can only dream of except he doesn’t have a friend! His dad has sent him off to a posh public school where the boys have names like Tarquin, in hope that he will join the elite. Sadly, Joe doesn’t fit in and the pupils at St Cuthbert’s call him ‘bum boy’ and ‘the loo roll kid’.
Desperately lonely Joe begs his father to come home and let him go to the local comprehensive…
On his first day, he meets Bob (perfectly pitched by Jake Lomas) . Bob is not one of the cool guys but they make a great pair. Like Joe he enjoys his food and tends to come last in the cross country – finally life is looking up. But Joe has learnt, like to his dad, to pay for favours, so he wards off Bob’s bullies with cash payments. He even pays for dinner lady Mrs Trafe’s hip replacement (which she instead uses for breast implants) but Bob doesn’t want to be bought and the friends fall out.
Finally when his Dad arrives at school in his helicopter – a fabulously staged dramatic landing – everyone finds out who Joe really is and suddenly they all want to be his friend. But fake friends leave Joe feeling down and dejected, along with his dad’s attentions being kept elsewhere with floozie girlfriend Sapphire who is only after one thing…
Walliam’s story is heart-warming and furiously witty with plenty of toilet humour and a sprinkling of mischief. It all went down a storm with my 7-year-old companion Beau. However, this story is not without substance and delivers a strong moral message, whilst also being feisty and funny in equal measures. Thrills arise in unexpected places and the score is a resounding success, there are some great catchy numbers set to energetic choreography from Paul Chantry and Rae Piper.
David Walliams has taken off where Roald Dahl left off creating wonderful children’s stories packed with funny, warm and grotesque characters. Neal Foster’s colourful direction along with some great performances from the sterling cast do great credit to the narrative. Most of the cast play multiple roles – I particularly enjoyed `Mathew Gordons’ endearing Joe, Rosie Coles’s suitably vacuous Sapphire and Emma Mathew’s characterful Mrs Trafe.
This play takes having fun very seriously and the result is a fantastic show which delivers a massive blast of joy that is perfect for all the family.
Beau and I were sing singing ‘Billionaire Boy’ all the way home and he was especially happy as he got to meet the man himself.
2 Charing Cross Road,
London, WC2H 0HH
Until 22 Aug 2021, Performance times vary