Gangsta Granny, Harold Pinter Theatre | Review

Gangsta Granny
Harold Pinter Theatre
Reviewed on Tuesday 16th August 2018 2017 by Emma Gradwell

Old people are boring, smell like cabbage and are prone to knitting us unfashionable jumpers for Christmas. Or so we are led to believe at the start of this story. Birmingham Stage Company have brought David Walliams’ modern classic to the stage for a two-hour romp that all ages can enjoy – and they have rightfully been nominated for Best Entertainment and Best Family Olivier Awards. 

Ben (played by Tom Cawte) not only has to live with shallow and celebrity-obsessed parents (played by Jenny Gayner and Jason Furnival), he also has to endure Friday evenings playing scrabble and eating cabbage soup with his Granny (played by Louise Bailey) – who happily acts a free babysitter, while Mum and Dad live out their dreams at a local Ballroom Dancing class. When Granny overhears Ben begging his parents to let him come home because of his boredom, this visibly upset old lady hatches a plan to lead Ben to believe she’s not as dull as he thinks she is. 

When Ben discovers a stash of jewels in Granny’s Queen’s Jubilee biscuit tin, he learns that Granny once led another life as notorious jewel thief, The Black Cat, who liked to steal “for the buzz”. What ensues is a plot to steal The Crown Jewels from the Tower of London via the sewerage network, using Ben’s expert knowledge of plumbing. 

This production is very much a family comedy: it’s a little bit rude, with lots of fart and bum jokes, but also relies on a more subtle and gentle humour at times, with some of the funniest moments involving Granny and Ben flying round the stage on her mobility scooter, complete with buggy board. Dance sequences transition scenes, as the ensemble cast move the large revolving cube boxes of the set to reveal different scenes to good effect. 

Louise Bailey as Granny performs well as the frail old lady who finds her energy through her love for her grandson – and delivers the role with a twinkle. Emma Matthews plays her characters for laughs, with Matron being a clear favourite with the audience. Aosaf Afzal is fantastic as both the ridiculous Flavio – and shop owner Raj, who also engaged the audience during the interval with his special offers. 

Unexpected bear dances, daring escapes, Gangsta raps and naked yoga all helped to engage the younger audience, whilst managing to deliver a poignant message at the heart of the story – a delightful realisation that behind the caravan club magazines, there may be exciting secrets. Excellent acting, slick scene changes and a very charming story of a boy and his Granny managed to captivate all ages, while reminding us to appreciate our older relatives while we still can. 

Wholly enjoyable and a great way to spend some time with our families this summer! 

Gangsta Granny runs at the Harold Pinter theatre until 26th August 2018

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