Last Updated on December 26, 2021
David Walliams’ Gangsta Granny – Christmas Family show
I took my enthusiastic young theatre critics to see the revival of David Walliams’s Billionaire Boy in the summer, they really enjoyed seeing the book that they had read and loved come to life on the stage and laughed joyously throughout. So, they were delighted to accompany me to see Gangsta Granny which has just opened at the Bloomsbury Theatre. Gangsta Granny is one of Walliams’s most successful novels which has been adapted for the stage by the Birmingham Stage Company along with Billionaire Boy and Awful Auntie. Neal Foster’s brilliant stage adaptation originally premiered in 2015 and has since enjoyed two West End seasons, for which it was nominated for an Olivier Award in 2018.
David Walliams has a knack for creating wonderful contemporary children’s stories which bridge the gap between the young and the old, creating fantastical characters, both loveable and grotesque whilst also touching on the theme of neglected children in the same vein as Roald Dahl’s Matilda.
Eleven-year Ben is portrayed with perfect boyish innocence by Justin Davies. Ben dreads Friday nights, as he is shipped off to stay with his boring Granny whilst his Mum (Jess Nesling) and Dad (Jason Furnival) go to ballroom dancing. His parents dream of him being a dancer and following the path of their dreams, but Ben is more interested in plumbing, much to their disappointment. Granny, delightfully played by Isabel Ford, lives on a diet of cabbage soup; she farts furiously, plays him at Scrabble and puts him to bed at an unearthly early hour. But what Ben doesn’t know is his Granny has still got a spring in her step and has a rather exciting secret life, which once he discovers allows him to see his grandmother in a completely different light. Together they embark on an adventure of a lifetime which takes them on a nocturnal heist, under the River Thames, through the city sewers into the Tower of London.
The connection between the two is the heart of this show, one that explores the joys of inter-generational relationships. There are some great performances all around, with an equally good supporting cast, Jason Furnival (who doubles as Dad) makes a marvellous Mr Parker, a nosey neighbour whose mission is to stir trouble and poke his unpleasant nose in everyone’s business. Raj the local shopkeeper and Flavio, a famed ballroom dancer are both played with enormous charm by Irfan Damani, who my young companion observantly pointed out also appeared in Billionaire Boy.
The versatile set designed by Jaqueline Trousdale creates a number of different locations, including Granny’s house, Ben’s home, the corner shop and the Tower of London. There’s’ a couple of fabulous scenes, one of the pair careering down the motorway on a mobility scooter and another of them crossing the River Thames. Gangsta Granny is a warm-hearted production that takes having fun very seriously. My co-critics thought it was “excellent”, they said it was their favourite production to date (and they’ve seen a few). It was so much fun, that the youngest, who is nearly 5, is keen for me to take him on a heist to the Tower of London!
This is perfect Christmas entertainment, a show that will undoubtedly bring festive cheer to the whole family.
David Walliams’ Gangsta Granny
Bloomsbury Theatre 15 Gordon Street, London, WC1H 0AH
Tickets start from £22 Box Office: 020 3108 1000
9 December ’21 – 9 January ‘22
Running time: 2hrs 5mins with interval Gangsta Granny is suitable for ages 5+