As someone who spends her time with a book practically sewn to her face I’m no stranger to seeing literature later come to life in theatrical adaptations; however I’m a strong believer in the simple joy of experiencing a production wholly unaware of what is to unfold, free to be enthralled by the story spun, unburdened by preconceptions and personal bias. So I settled in to watch Gangsta Granny with only the amusing title and cutesy cartoon cover as indicators of the world of geriatric crime I was about to enter into, curious and eager to see whether Master of Comedy David Walliams had managed to infuse some “Little Britain” humour into this children’s tale.
I suppose it shouldn’t come as a surprise that a play about an old lady got off to a slow start. Unfortunately, the initial portion saw many jokes fall flat and relied heavily on classic British punchlines such as Strictly Come dancing and the supposed love all grandparents have for cabbage. Whilst overuse can at times be quite funny in this occasion it quickly grew tired and only a smattering of half-hearted chuckles from the adults in the audience were earned. I was immediately impressed however by the quality of the production; the sets were multi-functional and fantastic, the lighting and sound effects were well selected, coordinated, and perfectly executed. I was also thoroughly impressed by the costumes, though outlandish they enhanced the theatrics which the children found understandably enthralling. Indeed, the performance included innumerable dance numbers both relevant to the plot and utterly pointless but I digress as this tale is certainly not geared towards young adults and factors such as random dancing and potty humour are generally big hits with little kids. In order to hear an opinion from the target audience, I cornered a child at intermission. When asked his thoughts on the play so far and whether he was finding the show funny Oscar had this to say: “yeah”.
Post intermission the play evolved into full pantomime which, combined with the wine consumed by myself and I’m certain all the parents surrounding me, breathed new vigour and life into the production. The play truly hit its stride in the second half and I must commend character actors Alison Fitzjohn and Umar Malik who exhibited veritable comedic chops. Malik’s role as Flavio was commendable however the parts with his alternate character Raj were in my opinion the dullest moments of the play and would benefit from some revision. Altogether I would say the entire cast was superlative and while the entire show may not have been wholly hilarious that fault falls to the script not the actors’ performance. The leads Gilly Tompkins, and Ashley Cousins especially, deserve special recognition as they were well cast and formidable. Despite the improvement in the jocularity of the script towards the finale I must warn that should any tears be shed they may not necessarily be from laughter. The plot pushed an underlying moral of appreciating the elderly while they’re around, to not mistake old age for monotony, as the production is closely tied with the charity Age UK; a charity which partners any of those interested, with an elderly person in order to form companionate friendships beneficial and rewarding to both parties.
While I wouldn’t recommend this play to anyone college age, unless they wished to make out a drinking game in which a shot is taken every time a character says cabbage, I would strongly recommend it to any parents wanting a night off from Peppa pig and finger painting while saving money on a sitter; indeed this is certainly one of the most effortless and classy family night outs you’ll have till they reach secondary school, that is as long as your definition of classy includes farts.
Guest Author: Cassandra Cassidy