REVIEW: Gangsta Granny (The Lowry Theatre, Salford)

Birmingham Stage Company's Gangsta Granny by David Walliams. ©Mark Douet
Birmingham Stage Company’s Gangsta Granny by David Walliams.
©Mark Douet
upstaged rating: 

The Lowry fizzes with excitement with the arrival of the Birmingham Stage Company’s adaptation of David Walliams’ much-loved Gangsta Granny.

Since 2008 David Walliams has taken the children’s literary world by storm – writing nine children’s books and selling more than 12.5 million copies worldwide. Children (and grown-ups) love his books and it was clear to see that this stage show was also well received. Gangsta Granny has been a staple read in our house- the immersive sheer brilliance of Walliams’ wit has ignited our imaginations and prompted conversation. While the stage show doesn’t offer the same enveloping delight as diving into the original, the charm and excitement of the live stage match the vigour and flamboyance of Walliams’ writing.

Adapted by Neal Foster, Gangsta Granny tells the story of Ben (Ashley Cousins) and the relationship that he has with his little scrabble playing, cardigan wearing, cabbage chomping Granny (Gilly Tompkins). Ben loathes having to stay at his boring Granny’s house every Friday when his Mum (Louise Bailey) and Dad (Benedict Martin) go to watch their Strictly Stars Dancing show.

Vibrant and colourful, each character looks as though they have sprung from the pages of Tony Ross’ wonderful illustrations. Travelling around on her motorised scooter we soon learn that Granny is not as boring as we have been led to believe. Action packed and dream-like with a wicked brilliance, Gangsta Granny is poignant with some top-trumping wit and offers a thoughtful twist as Ben comes to realise that beyond the drab exterior, his gran is wild and adventurous.  

‘It’s important to follow your dreams Ben, it’s all you’ve got to guide you.’

Jacqueline Trousdale’s set is colourful and snappy, the simple design makes scene changes swift and fluid. Jak Poore’s ballroom themed musical composition is lively and comical, adding further depth to the production.

© Mark Douet
© Mark Douet


Gangsta Granny is fun and fast paced and the perfect outing for children, parents and grannies. It continues to tour right through summer  2017 – running at 2 hours and 10 minutes, it is the ideal treat for those children who read, share and love Walliams’ writing.

-Kristy Stott

Gangsta Granny gets a WEST END transfer! Catch David Walliams’ Gangsta Granny at The Garrick Theatre, London from 26th July 2017 to 3rd September 2017- tickets are available here.

Gangsta Granny continues to tour the UK right through to September 2017. Click here to find your nearest venue and book tickets.

REVIEW – Horrible Histories: Groovy Greeks (The Lowry, Salford)

Horrible Histories: Groovy Greeks and Incredible Invaders
Upstaged Rating: 


Groovy Greeks is the energetic and informative new Horrible Histories show produced by The Birmingham Stage Company. Currently being performed in rep alongside Incredible Invaders, Groovy Greeks flies through thousands of years of Greek history faster than soaring Apollo on his fiery chariot.

Based on the brilliant books by Terry Deary, the CBBC show Horrible Histories has always been welcomed viewing in our house. Encompassing history, fun and gore, it is as much fun for parents as it is for children.

The energetic storytelling by the cast of four is really complimented by designer Jacqueline Trousdale’s 3D animation and the Bogglevision 3D specs which are handed out to the audience for the second half. The action is given a full seal of approval by the original author Terry Deary too, his familiar rich tone providing the voice of Zeus.

First up we meet The Trojans, a clever skit on The Simpsons complete with Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa and Mr. Burns. Next up, following a quick and seamless change, we have The ‘Hungry’ Games. The show uses many popular family TV shows to guide us through the history of Ancient Greece – we see Greece’s greatest thinkers collide in the Big Brother House and we vote for the most talented omnipotent power in ‘The God’s Have Talent’ – will our winner be a hip-hop Athena or a Lily Allen-esque Aphrodite?

What is perhaps so special about Horrible Histories on stage, is the interaction between the performers and the audience. Under Neal Foster’s clever direction, the performers keep their young (and old) crowd engrossed throughout the whole show – whether it is inviting a willing audience member to the stage, a mass singalong or making the crowd part of the chorus in an Ancient Greek Drama.

Considering the popularity of Horrible Histories, I was surprised to see that there were a lot of empty seats in the Lyric Theatre on the night that I attended. Maybe this was a reflection on playing Groovy Greeks alongside Incredible Invaders and the cost involved in purchasing tickets for both shows. Nevertheless, it was evident that the diverse audience were gripped for the full two hours running time.

Playing to a predominantly young audience has to be one of the most challenging but arguably, one of the most rewarding jobs in theatre. Groovy Greeks has a brilliantly entertaining cast who bounce off each other and enthuse their audience with vigour and curiosity. Any show that manages to tap into the minds of our young historians and future creatives must be celebrated and Groovy Greeks does just that.

-Kristy Stott

Horrible Histories: Groovy Greeks and Incredible Invaders is at The Lowry, Salford until Saturday 9th April 2016 and you can get your tickets here.