Gangsta granny and Ben

Gangsta Granny

Belgrade Theatre, Coventry


OH! To be eight again! It’s such a joy to go to the theatre and realise that the majority of the audience is under five feet tall! And they were in for such a treat – though some of them clearly knew the story very well already.

Our starting premise is that all grannies smell of cabbage, fart a lot and are dull as ditchwater. Ben (Ashley Cousins) is 11 and the only child of a couple (Laura Girling and Benedict Martin) who are obsessed with ‘Strictly’ and ballroom, particularly a star called Flavio (Umar Malik), hoping that Ben abandons the idea of becoming a plumber and takes to the stage.

He reluctantly visits Granny (Louise Bailey) each Friday while they go dancing – I loved the Driving Tango (must try that) – he reads Plumbing Weekly avidly and eats Rolos, she tells him stories about squirrels, eats a vast amount of cabbage and Murray Mints. She also keeps an intriguing Coronation biscuit tin full of jewels … that she claims came from a Charity Shop. Hmmmm . . .

A nosy neighbour, naturally called Mr Parker (Benedict Martin), comes prying and thinks he has discovered their plot to steal the Crown Jewels. Now, would a sweet little grey-haired old lady and an 11-year-old boy do a thing like that?

I loved the scene of them on the mobility scooter at comatose snail pace accompanied by a Police Officer (Alison Fitzjohn) heading on the M1 to London. The rest is typically David Walliams surreal fare, very funny, with lots of dancing and interaction – perfect for the under five foot people.

If I’m honest, I thought the second half could have been shorter – it was 20 minutes longer than the first half, a theatrical ‘no-no’ and the death of Granny unnecessary and poorly thought through.

It meant the piece ended on a sombre note and, if I were reading it to children, I would have finished the story at meeting the queen. It was a device, granted, to find out the value of the jewels but could have been tackled a different way and much quicker.

A word for the set – WOW! It was so busy, so clever, so versatile and so beautiful, I wish Jacqueline Trousdale could come and design my house! Beds were pulled out of towers, phones and televisions out of cupboards, it was truly amazing.

Directed by Neal Foster, this Birmingham Stage Company production runs to 20-02-16

Jane Howard



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