David Walliams’ bestseller easily makes the transition from novel to stage in this lively production by Birmingham Stage Company. Adapted and directed by BSC actor/manager Neal Foster, it retains all the fun and humour of the book while also ensuring edits keep the story moving at a rapid pace with plenty of action.
Jacqueline Trousdale’s design is ingenious, allowing the tale to move seamlessly between scenes. In some cases the scenery is detailed, for instance, Granny’s kitchen where her collection of kitsch is typical of any grannies. At others something as simple as a rat crossing the floor takes us to the sewers under London.
There’s a strong moral message to youngsters to respect and listen to their elders but it’s not delivered in a preaching manner. Rather there are plenty of laugh-out-loud moments from a dancing Queen through to near-naked yoga.
Gilly Tompkins is excellent as Granny, who is secretly a jewel thief, and Ashley Cousins is endearing as her grandson Ben. There is also a fantastic performance from Louise Bailey as the Queen.
BSC has built up a strong reputation for children’s theatre with successful adaptations of Roald Dahl favourites and Horrible Histories. With Walliams one of the top authors for children today, this collaboration is a natural step for the stage company.
After Birmingham, the show tours until January 2017 and will no doubt be hugely successful over the coming months. It will also be interesting to see whether BSC go on to adapt more of Walliams’ fiction in the future.