- Brian Donaldson
- 6 October 2016
Solid if not sensational adaptation of David Walliams' bestseller
If there's one thing to get kids and adults alike howling out loud or chortling into the back of their hands, it's jokes about poo, pumps and wee. And for those who can't get enough of the stinky stuff, plenty of it floats around in Birmingham Stage Company's production of Gangsta Granny.
The bestselling 2011 book by David Walliams has already been a TV hit with Julia McKenzie in the title role and here the significantly younger Gilly Tompkins has a lively ball as the cabbage-loving, jewellery-snatching, constantly-trumping grandmother to 'little Benny'.
Initially, Ben (Ashley Cousins brings to mind what Russell Howard might have been like as a young lad) is completely bored by his Friday night sleepovers at gran's house (she's looking after him in order to facilitate his parents' weekly ballroom dancing date). But when he uncovers her secret identity as international gem-thief The Black Cat, he starts to take more than a fleeting interest in granny's double life.
There's much to enjoy about this production such as its revolving and evolving set, which at various points transforms into granny's house, the Thames and the Tower of London. Plus, there's a nice spot of fourth-wall dismantling when shopkeeper Raj (Umar Malik) comes among us in the interval to suggest we buy discounted ice-cream from his establishment rather than from the ushers, while Tompkins / Cousins make a solid partnership at the show's core, so when their separation arrives in the second half, it's genuinely moving.
But oddly for a work created by a pedigree comedian and adapted by a company which has a strong track record in humour, having brought several Roald Dahls and Horrible Histories to the stage, the laughs don't really fly as they should. Perhaps the worst review Gangsta Granny could have received is that during the first half, some of the target crowd seemed more interested in their souvenir brochures than the actual show.
Gangsta Granny is on tour until Sun 3 Sep 2017. Reviewed at Edinburgh King's Theatre.