Gilly Tompkins as Granny and Ashley Cousins as Ben in GANGSTA GRANNY.

Gilly Tompkins as Granny and Ashley Cousins as Ben in GANGSTA GRANNY.       Photo Credit: Mark Douet

Birmingham Stage Company’s ingenious and lively adaptation of David Walliams bestselling novel GANGSTA GRANNY is every bit as good as the original

Most adults will recongise David Walliams as the man behind BBC One’s LITTLE BRITAIN or as a judge on BRITAIN’S GOT TALENT but for many children, he is a literary hero. As a children’s author, Walliams has sold over 10 million books worldwide, with his 2011 bestselling novel GANGSTA GRANNY standing out as a particular favourite with under-11s. No surprise then that Birmingham Stage Company decided to bring the much-loved children’s story to the big stage.

GANGSTA GRANNY tells the story of Ben (Ashley Cousins), an 11-year-old boy who loathes having to stay with his boring Granny (Gilly Tompkins) every Friday night. But what Ben doesn’t know is that Granny has a secret and his Friday nights are about to get more exciting than he could ever imagine, as he embarks on the adventure of a lifetime with his very own Gangsta Granny!

Fast-paced, funny and incredibly entertaining, GANGSTA GRANNY: LIVE ON STAGE! is action-packed, laugh-out-loud comedy adventure that will entertain the whole family. Birmingham Stage Company’s ingenious and lively adaptation is every bit as good as the original, retaining all the fun of the book while grasping every opportunity to squeeze humour and silliness out of the action on stage.

Skilfully directed by Neal Foster, the simple yet hilarious plot moves along at a rapid pace with Jacqueline Trousdale’s rotating and colourful sets unfolding like picture-book pop-outs to allow the tale to move seamlessly between scenes. There’s plenty of music, dancing, slapstick humour and toilet jokes to keep the kids entertained, with the small but talented cast bringing the larger-than-life characters to life on the stage.


Gilly Tompkins, Ashley Cousins and the cast of GANGSTA GRANNY. Photo Credit: Mark Douet

Gilly Tompkins’ is excellent as Granny, bringing a warmth to the character as she seeks to make Ben’s visits more interesting. Ashley Cousins is equally endearing as the fresh-faced Ben who also narrates the action. But the biggest laughs belong to Louise Bailey as the fart-popping Queen and Umar Malik as the outrageously over-the-top and flirtatious professional dancer Flavio.

At just over two hours long (including a 20 minute interval) the show is a little too long for very small children, with a few kids getting restless just before the end of the first act. Behind all the humour there are also tinges of sadness, particularly towards the end, which may result in a tear or two.

That said, young fans of the book will be delighted with this adaption and the action is very easy to follow. There’s also a strong moral message about respecting your elders and following your dreams.

Birmingham Stage Company are known as being masters of children’s theatre and their production of GANGSTA GRANNY is certainly one of their best. A charming adaptation of Walliams’ much loved book.

4 out of 5 stars

GANGSTA GRANNY: LIVE ON STAGE! runs at The Lowry until 4 September and transfers to London’s West End on 1 August 2017.