9-13 February 2016
Review by Zoey Caldwell
David Walliams has become a part of the bedtime routine in our house. Having just recently just finished his latest offering finding out that Gangsta Granny was hitting the stage a wave of excitement flooded through my son and I. He is 10 and despite his independent reading we share a book at bedtime too, the David Walliams books have entertained us for many a bedtime read.
The Milton Keynes theatre is a modern building and has its own “theatre district” area with several eateries and bars on hand. Within the theatre there is a Piano Bar and a small intimate eatery. Opposite these are the ticket office, kiosk and 2 theatre bars. It is a light and airy space and despite being a busy evening it did not seem cramped.
The staff that I encountered were very smartly dressed and very friendly. If you are going with your whole family, beware to take plenty of spending money or be really strict with purchases. It is not a cheap venue by any stretch of the imagination – although to be honest there are not many venues nowadays where the mark up is not sky high.
Onto the show, I am really not sure where to begin. The set is seamless, the genius set designer has thought hard about how to use the limited space on stage and be able to create several scene settings. The cast that dance on and change the setting are brilliant and highly amusing.
The story of an 11 year old boy that is forced to stay with his BORING granny every Friday night has been transformed from a children’s book to a family theatre show, with what appears to be ease. I am sure that to produce such a fantastic professional show that my former statement is far from the truth and that a lot of blood sweat and tears went into producing this fantastically funny show.
My one gripe that I cannot back with a viable solution is the very small part that Raj the newsagent plays in the show. Raj is a massive character that is the only character to appear in all the other books (except Awful Auntie, apart from his complaint letter at the end)
Personally I love the character Raj, and was really looking forward to seeing more of him – but he does not play as big a role as I expected – the reason I have no solution is that the show maybe 4 hours long if they were to take on everybody’s opinion. Umar Malik plays Raj and Flavio the dance guru masterfully. What a comedic performance!
Benedict Martin (Ben’s dad and the nosey Mr Parker) looked very familiar to me, found myself trying to work out where I knew him from – Horrible Histories at Warwick Castle! Again Benedict plays the characters very well and even has a brief stint in the audience with Laura Girling (Ben’s mum) for Ben’s under 12 dance competition. For those of you that may have not read the book watched Gangsta Granny on the television. Ben is a boy that has big dreams of being a plumber, but his parents believe he is wasting his life on pardon the pun pipe dreams. They have dreams of their own that their son would really make something of his life as a ballroom dancer. They send Ben every Friday night to stay with his boring, windy OLD granny. The torture of scrabble, a diet of cabbage cooked 100 ways gets too much for Ben and he calls his parents to collect him, but did his Granny hear the call? What comes next will ignite a fire of love and adventure between Black Cat the World Famous Jewel Thief and Ben.
Their relationship is restored as Gangsta Granny opens up a whole new world for Ben with tales of bravery and journeys into a time of his Granny’s life that Ben could only have dreamed of. Here follows Ben’s idea of stealing the Crown Jewels from the Tower of London. Armed with an old Plumbing Weekly and a really attentive weeks work at school, helps Ben hatch a plan that even his Granny cannot fault.
It is almost foiled as Ben is told that he cannot visit Granny because he has the dance competition. Cue comedic performance from Umar as Flavio and a painful dance routine from Ashley Cousins (Ben)
A visit from Granny and then there is one thing for it, the Clingfilm Appreciation Association board the mobility scooter and the great plan is underway.
Granny was played by Louise Bailey (not the headlined Gilly Tompkins) you would not know that Louise was not the first choice and standing in for Gilly. The on stage relationship between Granny and Ben is heart warming. I honestly cannot say a bad word about any performance- even Ben’s new black cat pet at the end!
Alison Fitzjohn is a member of the cast that plays several characters stands out from crowd. I have to say in the end dance sequence she had my son roaring with laughter, her expressions when she danced brought tears to our eyes but for all the right reasons.
An excellent cast, set and performance! When is the next David Walliams book being brought to the stage by this talented crew!
Tickets cost £24.40 (plus £2.85 transaction fee).
Gangsta Granny is at Milton Keynes Theatre until 13 February 2016. For more information or to book tickets click here or call the box office on 0844 8717652.
Milton Keynes Theatre, 500 Marlborough Gate, Milton Keynes, Bucks, MK9 3NZ