David Walliams' hit show is at New Wimbledon Theatre until Saturday
This adaptation of David Walliams’ most successful book fills the theatre with the stale aroma of cabbage soup, the glitz of Strictly, the pong of London sewers, and finally the love between a teenager and their ageing grandparent.
A faithful adaptation of the novel, the Birmingham Stage Company’s production takes a little while to get into its stride, as the early scenes of Ben counting the hours in his granny’s home drag slightly. But then those Friday nights were a torture of boredom for Ben, so perhaps this is as it should be.
Once his gran’s secret past is revealed, and Ben enters the national ballroom dancing competition, the pace quickens and the performance really takes off. We are treated to granny and Ben belting out suitably bad Gangsta rap, brilliant, cringe-making performances from Ben’s excruciating parents, and in Gilly Tompkins, a granny that could have been Julie Walters on stage.
Watching her and Ashley Cousins’ Ben cross the stage on a mobility scooter in scuba gear is a delight, as is their encounter, fresh from the capital’s sewerage system, with the Queen. The ballroom scenes were like Panto-season come early, with local jokes thrown in, and the whole production puts you in the Christmas spirit in advance of the real thing.
Surprisingly moving towards the end, the production sensitively but powerfully conveys a message about the importance of enjoying your family while you can, and gets all ages clapping and dancing.
If you fancy a feel-good night out to get you warmed up for the Christmas shows, or just want to see a favourite book translated to stage, this does the trick.
Nines all round, as the Strictly judges might say.
Gangsta Granny is at Wimbledon New Theatre until Saturday November 5.
By Chris Gray
Book your tickets on 0844 871 7646 or online at www.atgtickets.com/venues/new-wimbledon-theatre.
November 2, 2016