I’m pleased to be able to say that Ben is a keen and confident reader. He devours books and can often be found lying on his bed, long after he should have been asleep, reading to himself. I’m always torn between being cross with him and secretly quite pleased – I know it’s something I often got into trouble for myself! Although David Walliams books are usually recommended for around age 9+, Ben received Gangsta Granny for Christmas last year and has since gone on to read Billionaire Boy. He’s more than capable of reading them but I’m obviously aware that some of the themes might be more tricky for him and so we chat about what he’s reading fairly regularly.
When the opportunity arose to see Gangsta Granny on stage at the Manchester Opera House I obviously jumped at it, knowing that Ben would be absolutely thrilled but also genuinely really looking forward to it myself! I love going to the theatre and the educational benefits for children are wide-ranging. So far Ben has only really seen pantos or quite short plays (like The Tiger Who Came to Tea) so this was a bit of a new experience for him.
The performance runs for 2hrs 10 mins including a 20 minute interval – which is obviously quite a long time to sit still and makes for a very late night on a school night. We got home at 10pm last night so I had one very tired little boy this morning – but it was totally worth it. With the length of the show and some of the more grown up themes I would suggest that you probably don’t want to be taking anyone much younger than Ben to watch Gangsta Granny – it’s very much a Key Stage 2 thing to my mind.
If, like me, you don’t really know much about the story of Gangsta Granny – then I don’t want to spoil it for you by giving you too much detail but from what Ben has told me afterwards the performance remains true to the book. There were several times that Ben turned to me during the show and said he remembered one of the characters saying or doing exactly that. He also told me a couple of the ways the performance differed from the novel which gave me the opportunity to chat to him about how and why when books are adapted for film and stage they often miss bits out or enhance bits.
The set was incredible – with a thread of dance running through the entire show, any movement of props or change in scenery became a performance itself meaning you almost didn’t notice as the scenes changed. Everything just flowed seamlessly and completely drew the audience in. Ben is often very keen to understand how things have worked on stage, conscious of the magic and trickery that goes into a set. This time he was too absorbed in the performance itself to even notice.
I knew that the basic premise of the story was a boy’s relationship with his Granny and I knew that she was very poorly at the end. I knew to expect humour – it is David Walliams after all. What I didn’t expect was the clear lesson in respecting our elders, in not allowing old people to become invisible and valuing them. As the local shopkeeper explains to Ben “Just because she’s old, doesn’t mean she’s boring“. As Ben’s parents visited Granny in hospital and could barely spare 5 minutes to keep her company, I turned to my Ben and said “Don’t you ever do that to me!” – we chatted on the way home about how Ben’s Dad was treating his Mum and how very sad it must have made her feel.
From start to finish the show is filled with comedy moments (including plenty of cabbage based trumps) – I laughed, I very nearly cried. The acting is spot on and we were both fully invested in what was going on on stage in front of us. I think one of the highlights for Ben was probably when Mum and Dad left the stage and became part of the audience, sitting just a couple of seats down from us – he couldn’t stop staring at them! It’s also worth mentioning that Granny’s illness and death was dealt with so very sensitively – it’s emotional but without unnecessary drama. It was written and performed perfectly.
Gangsta Granny Live on Stage absolutely lived up to every bit of hype and excitement for us. (If you’d like to read other people’s thoughts on the show check out The Brick Castle and Extraordinary Chaos who were also there.) The show runs until Sunday and there are still tickets available. Ben is already looking forward to Awful Auntie in the autumn! He’d best get saving up.
*Ben and I were invited to the press night of Gangsta Granny free of charge for the purposes of review. All thoughts and opinions remain our own*