Ian Waller and his family enjoy a clever adaptation of a David Williams tale
Granny’s can be, well, a bit boring, can’t they? You know, sweet and loving and all that, but not really that interesting and with a liking for weird things like cabbage soup and Murray Mints. At least, that’s Ben’s experience of his granny, and the main part of the reason why he dreads Friday evening when he has to stay over at his granny’s house while his parents are out dancing.
But then Ben discovers a secret about his old granny, a stunning, exciting, amazing secret that transform cabbage loving granny into Gangsta Granny, and leads them both onto the adventure of their lives.
Gangsta Granny has come to the Bristol Hippodrome and is, of course, the creation of the comic actor and now hugely successful children’s novelist David Walliams. Having read a few of Walliams books with my children, despite their undoubted success, I have to admit to always finding the stories basically pretty weak and lacking the real depth of characters and original story telling of the real greats. Yes, they’re funny enough, with plenty of bum and poo jokes to keep children giggling, but they just don’t sparkle or offer anything new.
The success of this production of Gangsta Granny then is that is makes the most of an average plot through excellent acting, superb comedy timing and a wonderfully inventive stage set that uses minimal props and creative choreography to bring the tale to life.
Central to the whole production is Ashley Cousins as Ben and our stand-in granny for the night, Louise Bailey. The two play off each other superbly, with Bailey in particular a real star turn as the aging hero with a surprising back story.
Around these two central characters, the rest of the players take on multiple roles each, all played in a perfectly exaggerated manner, from the creepy neighbourhood watch operative to the stingy corner shop owner and even a dancing Queen Elizabeth.
OK, yes, it does take a little while to get going, but once the secret’s out of the bag, there are plenty of enjoyable comedy touches to keep the youngsters in the crowd amused, particularly in the second half of the show. My three children, aged 6, 9 and 11, all really enjoyed it, laughing at those poo jokes and joining in with cheering and clapping whenever encouraged. For me, it was a perfect example of how a great production and a cracking cast can make the most of average story, and keep the audience very happy in the process.
Gangsta Granny runs at the Bristol Hippodrome until Saturday 3 June.