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Enjoyable adaptation of David Walliams's hit book, for ages five-plus
David Walliams is now such a big deal in children’s literature that even JK Rowling is looking over her shoulder/owl perch. His books – including 'World’s Worst Children' and 'Billionaire Boy' – camp out at the top of the bestsellers' list and refuse to budge. He writes proper children’s stories: witty, eccentric, brimming with ideas and full of heart. 'Gangsta Granny' is one of his very best and this stage adaptation, helmed by 'Horrible Histories' maestro Neal Foster, is as sparkly as a 'Strictly' costume and properly moving to boot.
This is basically 'Mission Impossible: The Granny Years'. Young Ben (a positively glowing Ashley Cousins) dreads Friday nights with his Granny, which involve cabbage, followed by cabbage, followed by cabbage. But one night Ben discovers that Granny has a secret life as a gangster - and it isn’t long before Granny and Ben are planning a spectacular heist of their own.
It’s all seriously silly fun and rather bonkers in a very British way (fart jokes and puns abound and even the Queen gets in on the action). Jacqueline Trousdale’s set spills over with bright colours, tinsel and sumptuous detail. Beds spring out from walls and Granny’s chintz-filled home bursts out of a box. This is a stage full of hidden worlds and secrets, where nothing is quite as it seems.
Foster fills every second with ballroom dancing, dazzling re-enactments, loony puppet shows and a gangsta rap to boot. It’s occasionally a little too manic, but is grounded by Gilly Tomkins as Granny who – even when she whizzes about on a mobility scooter – brings real gravitas to this show. As the adventure comes to an end Granny whispers, ‘The joy of being alive!’, and the whole audience grows young again.