From the cling film appreciation society to a literal dancing queen, this adaptation of the David Walliams children’s book has everything of both a sophisticated play and a pantomime. The play suffices to bring to life the highly comedic – but equally implausible – story of a boy slowly discovering that there is more to his boring old grandma than just cabbage soup and scrabble.
With an engaging cast and sufficient audience participation, it remains captivating without becoming tedious. The farcical humour appeals to all ages, not just children, with the occasional more sophisticated jokes – such as one concerning the 5p bag charge.
Played by Gilly Thompson, the role of Granny is expertly acted with enthusiasm, especially when she tells her gangster stories in a very relatable way whilst cast members physically acted it out on stage; taking it above and beyond the book.
The other cast members add to the light-hearted nature of the play such as the eccentric double act of the ballroom dancing parents. Furthermore, the protagonist, by adopting a nasal tone typically personifies the whining mannerisms of an 11 year old perfectly.
The use of lighting, music, props and costumes combine to create an overwhelming and hilarious effect even during the scene changes. The costumes particularly are something to marvel at especially when the boy is trying on the most ridiculous (almost Lady Gaga-like!) outfits for ballroom dancing. The costumes however really come into a league of their own with the elephant’s heads, reminiscent of the attention to detail found in the puppets of War Horse.
As the play reaches its conclusion, it continues in a more sobering tone when Granny passes away, signified effectively by the change in music from the waltz to classical pieces. The sobering moment of Granny’s death, shortly followed by the queen comically dancing during her Christmas speech, gets the audience to their feet to conclude what can only be described as charming masterpiece.
Gangsta Granny at the Kings Theatre (run now ended)
Photo courtesy of the Kings Theatre