Theatre Review: Gangsta Granny, Empire Theatre, Liverpool

Written By: Mark Armstrong

Format: Family Show
Genre: Comedy
Date: April 19 2017
Location: Empire Theatre, Liverpool, England

David Walliams’ children’s novel Gangsta Granny has come to life in a live stage format, and the show has just arrived at Liverpool Empire Theatre.

Gangsta Granny tells the story of Granny (Gilly Tompkins) and her grandson Ben (Ashley Cousins). Ben has to stay at his Gran’s every Friday night while his parents go dancing, and he dreads the weekly visit to see who he considers to be a dull-as-dishwater Granny, who nevertheless loves her grandson and tries to do everything she can for him. His opinion drastically changes, though, when he learns that his Granny is actually a secret thief of jewels and diamonds (hence the term Gangsta Granny), and she increases the excitement by detailing some incredible stories of past heists.

Using a pretend desire to take up dancing lessons as a cover, Ben visits his gran more often, and they soon come to the joint decision that they should carry out an attempted heist on the British Crown Jewels, with the intention to put them back the next night. The plan has a number of obstacles in its path, though, and the story has several twists which suggest that not everything is as it seems, in more ways than one.

As this is a family show, the story is all told in jest, with over-the-top characters (such as Parker, who is essentially a “Nosey Parker”), humorous one-liners and amusing physical comedy and deliberately absurd dance routines. There’s also lots of craziness to keep the younger attendees entertained, and there’s also some unexpected touches of sadness which may surprise the adults in the audience.

Gilly Tompkins is very convincing, believable and funny as the Gangsta Granny; she and Ashley Cousins, as Ben, are the star performers, although the cast as a whole do a good job. I particularly liked the colourful and authentic settings for certain backdrops (some of which I can’t divulge as it would give away the ending!), and the costumes are also of a high standard. The music is catchy as well, and there are a couple of nice surprises dotted throughout the show to keep things unpredictable, as well as some running jokes throughout the show, largely based on Granny’s fondness for cabbage.

Overall, Gangsta Granny provides a great deal of family fun, and it’s a show that the kids will want to see again and again.

Overall Rating: 9/10 – Outstanding