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REVIEW: Gangsta Granny at Sunderland Empire

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Super Gran Knows Best

David Walliams’ Gangsta Granny
Sunderland Empire
Until Sunday 14th May 2017

David Walliams is rapidly becoming well known to the younger generation as the author of best selling stories. With its experience of creating children’s shows, Birmingham Stage is a natural partner at bringing his tales to the stage.  Together they have produced a show that’s ideal for creative key stage 2 & 3 children and help encourage them to enjoy the delights of live theatre.

Ben (Ashley Cousins) is an 11 year old lad who has to spend his Friday nights with his Granny (Gilly Tompkins) so his Mum (Rachel Stanley) and Dad (Benedict Martin) can go dancing. His parent’s have got the Strictly bug as they frequently dance around the stage. He dreams not of dancing, but of a career in plumbing.

Granny smells of cabbage. No wonder as every meal that she prepares is based upon cabbage. Cabbage soup, cabbage pie and even cabbage ice cream. Granny also thinks a good night in is one playing Scrabble. Ben has other ideas about diet and entertainment.

Ben’s ideas about Granny change when he spots her crime and gangster books. Then he spots a biscuit tin full of jewellery. Is there more to granny than meets the eye?

I had my son in tow for this evening’s show and he said he found the show both funny and entertaining. I asked him if he thought there were too many fart jokes - he reminded me that to a young lad there is no such thing. Indeed Neal Foster’s adaptation and direction puts the 11 year old audience member central to the performance.

There is some dancing, choreographed by Paul Chantry and Rae Piper. Indeed, during the teen dancing competition local girl Rhiane Finley, from Sunderland, had a chance to show us all her skills. Rhiane had been successful in a search for a local dancer to join the show. She was a perfect compliment to what was about to follow (but no spoilers here!)

The set design was well thought out by Jacqueline Trousdale. The way in which the units revolved to turn bedrooms into a shop and then into Grannies’ apartment helped maintain the flow of the show.

The show’s two central characters need to keep the young audience’s attention and Ashley Cousins and Gilly Tompkins do a cracking job. Supported by an engaging ensemble, they created a number of laughs, especially in the second act.  Liz Garland, for example, shows us her moves as the Queen.

So is there a strong message to the tale? Oh yes! That we are reminded to make the most of our grandparents as we’ll miss them when they’re gone didn’t go unnoticed.

The creators of theatre often struggle to produce shows that fill the gap between the nursery years and the GCSE standards, Gangsta Granny is a perfect for the middle years. The CBBC generation will enjoy the warm tale of family life and cabbages. A perfect way to celebrate the end of last week’s SATs.

Review by Stephen Oliver.
The 10:30am show on Saturday 13thMay is a relaxed performance.

Tickets available from the Box Office on High Street West, via the ticket centre 0844 871 3022* or *calls cost up to 7p per minute plus standard network charges. Booking and transaction fees may apply to telephone and online bookings.

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