Gangsta Granny – Review – Bradford Alhambra

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Gangsta Granny – Review

Bradford Alhambra, July 2016

by Sandra Callard

David Walliams is one of the funniest men on television, and his children’s books have sold by the million. One of his best sellers is Gangsta Granny, and this has been turned into a stage show, now showing at the Alhambra Theatre in Bradford. It is reasonably short, given that the majority of the audience is children, and I went along with my eight-year-old grandson to get his expert view of the show.

Gangsta Granny review 2016The theatre was packed with excited children, mostly wearing the obligatory black gangster mask, as their long-suffering parents prepared for a boring evening. And, amazingly enough, that is exactly what most of the first half was, boring, boring, to children and parents alike. I am a David Walliams fan, I laugh when I look at him, but this first half was long, wordy, static and repetitive. My grandson sat in a silent daze as innumerable characters dashed on stage and talked and talked and talked. The audience was mostly silent, wondering when the action and the laughs would begin.

“Wacky Walliams”

Enter the parents of the lead boy, Ben. Obsessively avid dance fans, they apparently devoted their lives to this end. Played by Laura Girling and Benedict Martin, they were on stage almost non-stop as they danced and twirled, extolling the virtues of their actions. They were extremely annoying, and the silent response of the audience said just one thing – please get off!

Ben, really well played by Ashley Cousins, seemed the only understandable and pleasant character on stage, as his granny told him in infinite detail of her younger life as a cat burglar, and showed him a tin full of jewels. Gilly Tompkins as Granny had a huge part and did have some humorous lines. She got the first laughs of the night, mainly by frequently breaking wind.

The first act ground mercilessly on and finally finished. The children badly needed a break, let alone the adults, and returned hopeful that things would hot up. Well, thankfully they did. I kid you not, the second half was like a different production. It was fast, slick and funny. There is a section where Granny boasts about her bravery with an elephant and a brown bear who were attacking her, and on they came, costumes perfect, actions wild and funny. This was true wacky Walliams, unexpected and hilarious. The kids loved it and so did I.

Gangsta Granny review alhambra

“Restlessness”

Benedict Martin, who played Ben’s dad, also played a blinder as Mr Parker, the nosey Neighbourhood Watch man. He was hilarious, with his creepy walk, his clothing, and his whining voice, he was brilliantly horrible, a character the children loved to hate.

The stage sets were brilliant. Three boxy-looking compact structures which cast members unobtrusively and efficiently turned into a bedroom, a hospital ward, the Tower of London or Granny’s kitchen. Lighting too was top notch, and the scene where police were swarming over the stage in the dark as strobe lighting flashed was exciting and clever.

The show was a hotch-potch of boring scenes with too much talking, when the restlessness of the audience was apparent, and an exciting, funny and startling finale. My grandson summed it up in a nutshell: “The first half was boring, the second half was good”.

photos: Mark Douet

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