Awful Auntie Live On Stage In Birmingham

Awful Auntie stormed into the Birmingham New Alexandra Theatre tonight delighting both children and adults alike. The latest David Walliams novel to be adapted for the stage has all the hallmarks that make Walliams’s books so brilliant, a monstrous villain, a plucky, determined child, a story of loss and friendship. But, unlike the other Walliam’s stories, this is a story set in the past, in the 1920s, and there’s no sign of Raj. That said,it is still a brilliantly told tale, and in Alberta Saxby, it has one of the most memorable baddies in recent times.

Stella Saxby is 12, almost 13, when she wakes up in her bed swathed head to toe in bandages. She’s been in a coma for four months, since the car crash that killed her parents Lord and Lady Saxby, and is now in the care of her Aunt Alberta and her giant Bavarian Owl Wagner. Stella is suspicious that her Aunt means her harm and may have been involved in the death of her parents, and this is confirmed when Stella is locked in the dark coal cellar. But in the cellar she meets a friendly ghost, Soot, a chimney sweep who lost his life when someone lit a fire underneath him. With Soot’s help, Stella sets about getting rid of her ‘awful auntie’, but it turns out to be a difficult job as her aunt outwits her every step of the way. Will Stella ever be safe again, and who is Soot really.

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The key to the success of ‘Awful Auntie’ is the superb casting. Timothy Speyer is a hoot as Aunt Alberta, playing the role as a cross between Stanley Baxter and, well, David Walliams, in drag. His comedic timing his just brilliant, particularly in the Home Alone – esque scene when his bedroom is booby trapped. Georgina Leonidas and Ashley Cousins are also great, giving spirited charming performances as Stella and Soot, characters you can really get behind in their troubles. Elderly butler Gibbon, played by Richard James was another crowd pleaser, have the young audience in stitches with his short sighted, decrepit ways and actions, actions that include serving a pair of burnt slippers as breakfast and wiping a dirty floor with a priceless fur stole.

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The staging of Awful Auntie is clever, with a vintage motor car careering across the stage, and sets that rotate to create a coal shute and a library and other rooms to give the impression of Saxby Hall. Wagner is wonderfully controlled by puppeteer Roberta Bellekom.

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Awful Auntie is a delight for children of all ages.

Awful Auntie

New Alexandra Theatre 

Wednesday 22 to Sunday 26 November 2017

Click here for ticket information

Gangsta Granny – Live on Stage at the Wolverhampton Grand

David Walliams is a literary genius when it comes to children’s literature. I have just finished reading ‘Demon Dentist’ to my little boy Joe, so it is fitting that this is also the week that I was able to see my first Walliams adaptation on the stage. ‘Gangsta Granny’ is his most popular book, and it was brought to life in thrilling and hilarious fashion at the Wolverhampton Grand last night, proving to be a treat for both the young, and they young at heart.

Ben is twelve years old. His parents are a little obsessed with ballroom dancing, which leads to Ben dreading Friday nights, when he is forced to stay with his cabbage obsessed granny. Ben is bored with granny, and dreads their nights of scrabble and cabbage. But one week he decides to visit Granny on a different night of the week, and learns that his kindly old granny is, in fact, The Black Cat, an audacious wanted jewel thief. Ben’s surprise turns to delight, and with granny he plans the most daring jewel heist of them all – the stealing of the crown jewels. But neighbourhood watch menace Mr Parker is hot on their trail, and granny isn’t well. Will they be able to pull off their plan?

Ashley Cousins is perfect as Ben, highly likeable with skill at portraying the problematic relationships between both Ben and his parents, and Ben and his grandma. His later scenes with granny are touching, as the two form a real bond. Granny is the brilliant Gilly Tompkins, think Catherine Tate as nan without the swear words. She is just hilarious, every step she takes seems to be echoed by a fart noise that basically had my 8 year old crying with laughter, but she also brings real pathos to a role that highlights the lonely plight of the elderly, even those who have a family. Her granny is one you could only dream of being related to, plucky, loving and funny with it.

As Mom and Dad, both Sophie Gibbs and Benedict Martin are excellent, especially when showing off their ballroom dancing skills. Martin is also very funny in a David Walliams esque performance of ‘Nosy’ Parker, the slimy, odious neighbourhood watch warden/spy. In the joint role of Raj/Flavio Devesh Kishore raises lots of laughs, particularly with Raj’s bargain buys.

Gangsta Granny is brilliant entertainment for all the family, funny and warm, but not afraid to address real issues pertaining to the elderly and our perceptions of them.  You leave the theatre with a warm glow, waiting for the next Walliams adaptation Рhe truly is the modern day Roald Dahl.

Go See.

Thu 23 – Sun 26 Mar Wolverhampton Grand

GANGSTA GRANNY