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Gangsta Granny


From the acclaimed producers of Horrible Histories comes the amazing story by David Walliams, the UK’s best-selling author for children.

It’s Friday night and Ben knows that means only one thing – staying with Granny! There will be cabbage soup, cabbage pie and cabbage cake and Ben knows one thing for sure – it’s going to be sooooooooo boring! But what Ben doesn’t know is that Granny has a secret – and Friday nights are about to get more exciting than he could ever imagine, as he embarks on the adventure of a lifetime with his very own Gangsta Granny!

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Gangsta Granny ON TOUR

Our review on Gangsta Granny

Gangsta Granny - Opera House, Manchester - Wednesday 24th November 2021 by Karen Ryder

Our Rating

I am usually the one who is bursting with excitement when it comes to the theatre, but I think it is safe to say that my guest for the evening won by a mile tonight!  My eight year old nephew talked non stop in the car, making sure I knew the story, asking if David Walliams would be there, and wondered how would they get The Tower Of London into the Opera House.  We hadn’t even arrived and I was already having the best time, watching him feel so alive at the prospect of a night at the theatre.  This is why live performance is so brilliant.  It feeds our soul, our imaginations, and allows us to come together with families and friends.  Unfortunately the theatre wasn’t at it’s fullest, however, the small but mighty Manchester (or should that be Granchester) audience certainly didn’t disappoint when it came to joining in and letting the cast know just how much we appreciated their hard and brilliant work.

Gangsta Granny may be a book written for children but trust me when I say that doesn’t mean adults can’t enjoy it – you just have to give yourself permission to.  Judging by the reactions, this audience certainly loved it and I would happily recommend Gangsta Granny anyone who wants a good night and a giggle.


Gangsta Granny
follows the story of Ben, a lonely child who more often than not gets turfed out of his own home to go and stay with his Granny because his disinterested parents are off to compete in their latest ballroom competition.  The trouble is, Ben hates going to his Granny’s because nothing exciting ever happens and he is fed nothing but cabbage soup, cabbage chocolate – anything with cabbages really.  The TV doesn’t even work at Granny’s and Ben is forced to endure board games that literally leave him bored to tears.  When Granny overhears Ben on the phone begging his parents to come and pick him up, she is understandably upset thinking Ben doesn’t love her.  The next day, after refusing more cabbage based food, Ben goes in search of some biscuits to feed his hunger but finds more than he bargained for.  The biscuit tin is stuffed with jewels instead of hob knobs.  It seems boring cabbage soup Granny is actually The Black Cat - an international jewel thief!  Ben is suddenly interested in all things Granny and so they set out on an adventure together to “borrow” the crown jewels.  As they break into The Tower Of London, Ben realises his Granny is far more capable than he ever realised.  He just hopes he hasn’t left it too late to tell her.

Isabel Ford (Emmerdale, Coronation Street, Nativity 2) is comedy gold as Gangsta Granny.  She truly portrays that tricky line between happy and heartache.  We are able to laugh with her, at her, and because of her, yet equally break our hearts for her low moments.  She walks with humour, farts with humour and she has some brilliantly ridiculous moments such as naked yoga and rapping.  Her scenes with Ben really work and the duo make a pretty unstoppable pair.  My favourite scenes with Ford are where she is telling Ben about how she stole each of the jewels in her biscuit tin.  The scenes use a mix of sound, creative direction and brilliant acting from Ford and ensemble to truly take us on a journey with each story.  And when the elephants come on stage, it’s just the icing on the cabbage cake!



Justin Davies (Stella, Miss Peregrine’s home for peculiar children) plays Ben.  He does remarkably well as an adult playing a child role and doesn’t make it cringy at all as can often be seen.  He is incredibly believable and you are able to just go with it and accept he is a school boy.  The role is so demanding that it makes perfect sense for an adult to have to do it.  Davies is funny, engaging and keeps the interlocking parts of the story and all the different characters fitting together as fantastically as the set itself (but more on this genius piece of work later).  He is brilliant in his nightmare about cabbages scene and his dance competition scene, using physical drama and comedy to great effect.  Infact the nightmare scene was done so well that just as I was leaning over to explain to my nephew that Ben was now having a nightmare, he explained it to me before I got a look in!

Jason Furnival (Emmerdale, Billionaire Boy, War Horse, Holby) plays Ben’s dad and Mr. Parker – Granny’s nosey Parker neighbour.  It is as Mr. Parker that he became a real audience favourite, from his too short trousers, his shuffling feet and his “watching you” routine when stalking Granny as she lay in hospital.  This scene was my nephews favourite as it cleverly used an easily duplicated action and catchphrase which every time you thought was finished, returned in an even more bizarre location, including a shadow through the hospital window.  I had the joy of hearing “watching you” with the actions all the way home!!! (well almost all the way home, stopping only when my nephew fell asleep).


Jess Nesling
(Richard III, Blithe Spirit, The Winters Tale) doubled up as Ben’s mum and The Queen.  In the first half she had the difficult job of dancing through all the scene changes as “a filler”.  The character of the mum is not supposed to be the best dancer so it was a tricky task to undertake but she continued with a smile and humerous moments such as pulling her back or twinging her leg.  As The Queen, Nesling was witty yet still respectful, not an easy balance but she certainly achieved it (Ok, so she may have farted as The Queen but we all do it right!  And even that was done with grace!)  If you’ve ever wondered how to fart with grace, just watch Jess Nesling as The Queen!  Again, this moment was a favourite with the younger members of the audience for sure.  She finishes the show as The Queen with a lovely message about not disregarding the older members of our society and making sure we listen because they all have an interesting story to tell.  I wondered if this message would be lost amongst the humour of the show, so I asked my nephew if he had learnt anything.  He said he’d learnt that cabbages make you fart, that the Crown Jewels are a crown, sceptre and orb and that old people have the best stories to tell. 

I have to mention Irfan Damani (Eastenders, Breeders) who played Raj and Flavio.  In the second half we see him come into his own as he interacts directly with the audience as Flavio – the famous, past his sell by date Strictly Stars Dancing professional dancer.  He truly rallied the audience and was absolutely not interested that it may not have been a full house.  He got everyone whooping and cheering as if it packed to the rafters, jokingly mock insulted audience members on the front row and got everyone worked up into a frenzy by asking if we were better than a Liverpool audience.  He made us laugh with his fake Italian accent, using words such as “gentlemenze”, giggle at his ongoing battle of trying to fluff his long wig out of his mouth and belly laugh at his dance moves, or lack of them.  He really included the audience and even encouraged us all to stand up, let loose and dance along with him!



Now to that incredible set design by Jackie Trousdale.  I need this person to come and give my home a make over because what she doesn’t know about maximum use of space isn’t worth knowing.  The set was incredible – so incredible that at the interval a complete stranger struck up a conversation with me about it!  It consisted of three main pieces, each of which rotated.  Every inch of every piece was used.  They were like pandoras box and the tardis all rolled into one.  Not only did they have a different exterior on each side of the box, which was rotated accordingly, but each side of the box also had it’s own secret.  It either opened up to create a new area, had a secret bed tucked into a wall that pulled out like those spice racks in posh peoples homes, or a sofa nestled into a wall that popped out like a drawer.  It was incredible and I was dying to jump up and explore.  There were ladders that Granny climbed down from a hospital roof but were equally used as the ladder for Bens bunk bed (which had been hidden inside the wall).  Honestly – an amazing set.

Gangsta Granny is a fun night out and definitely worth a bit of a late night for your children because it will truly ignite their imagination and their love of books.  So grab your granny for a great night of gratifying giggles.  Just remember, a Black Cat has nine lives…………..


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