Review: Gangsta Granny Live on Stage

We were invited to see Gangsta Granny at Bloomsbury Theatre in London. This adaption by Neal Foster of the popular book by David Walliams is performed by The Birmingham Stage Company and is billed as suitable for age 5 to 105. 

Close up of Gangsta Granny Live on Stage Souvenir Programme with stage in background at Bloomsbury Theatre
We were invited to review Gangsta Granny Live On Stage

The plan was to go to see the play with my two daughters, but Little developed a continuous cough so we couldn’t take her (PCR test was negative though, phew) so it was just me and my 10 year old who went along. M has read the book, but I haven’t and I barely even knew the plot, but we both enjoyed it. I asked my daughter how similar it was to the book and got a rather long winded answer which amounts to: pretty similar, there were a few things she didn’t remember from the book, but was unsure if that was because she had forgotten them or they weren’t in there.

Gangsta Granny Live On Stage Review

The performances were polished and the set cleverly crafted to allow for quick changes to create many different locations. I felt that the short scenes, especially in the first half where they are setting the background, slowed down the pace and I would have liked more dialogue, but they probably helped the smaller members of the audience with shorter attention spans. 

The nine cast members (plus very talented best solo female dancer) take on numerous roles throughout the play. In a variety of costumes and with a bit of dance, the cast change the set between scenes which again keeps things interesting for the younger members of the audience. Some of the performances are so good I didn't even realise they were the same actor (Mr Parker and Dad are played by Jason Furnival which I didn't twig and I might not have realised Jess Nesling played the Queen if I hadn't remembered seeing it in the programme). I think it's probably only Isabel Ford (as Granny) and Justin Davies (as Ben) who play just the one character each, but I wouldn't have been surprised if they sneakily were something else too. 

Sitting in the theatre with a face mask on is a new one for me, but luckily my glasses soon adjusted allowing me to see the stage without being steamed up and I hardly noticed I was wearing one.  It was nice to hear the children in the audience laughing and enjoying themselves. The adults laughed too, but not always at the same jokes.

Gangsta Granny stage show London 2021 cast showing Mr Parker, Granny and Ben
Quick Granny hide those jewels.


About Gangsta Granny Live On Stage

The plot of the play (and book I guess) is that Ben, who wants to be a plumber when he grows up, has to regularly stay at his Granny’s house while his parents go ballroom dancing. He originally thinks his Granny is boring and smells of cabbage, but soon discovers his Granny was an international jewel thief so he encourages her to steal the Crown Jewels. She eventually tells him that she made it all up in order to be interesting, but did she? 

Granny sadly dies towards the end of the play, but this is dealt with sensitively without it feeling too sad so it shouldn’t upset most children. It is something to be aware of though if you aren’t familiar with the book. There are also side stories woven through the play about Ben’s Strictly obsessed parents wanting him to be a ballroom dancer which they consider a proper career, unlike plumbing, and the nosey Mr Parker of the neighbourhood watch who is convinced Granny is up to more than naked yoga.

Gangsta Granny on stage with Ben, two elephants and a bear
Gangsta Granny telling stories of how she stole jewels in the past 


At various points throughout the performance my daughter laughed, groaned, hid behind her coat and danced. Her favourite part was the dancing cat, but she thought the whole show was great. I thought the choreography and staging was very impressive and performances were strong. The slick coordination of all the changes (both set, costume and wigs) must require a huge amount of organisation behind the scenes and anyone that has performed themselves will particularly appreciate the efforts.

Overall Gangsta Granny is full of humour, great performances and cabbage. I think the minimum guide age of 5 is spot on (although there were plenty of younger children in the audience) and there is no need to know the book first in order to appreciate the play. The play contains large doses of surrealism, but there are deeper messages underneath about having more time for elderly people and family relationships. 

The play is showing at Bloomsbury Theatre until 9th January 2022 before continuing it's tour all over the country. You can book tickets for the London performances by calling the Box Office on 020 3108 1000 or online at https://www.thebloomsbury.com/event.  Find out where else you can see Gangsta Granny Live on Stage in 2022 at: www.birminghamstage.com 

Running time: 2hrs 5mins with interval 

***Disclosure: we received press tickets to watch the show***

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