David Walliams’ Gangsta Granny in Woking

Liz Nicholls

David Walliams

David Walliams answers some questions ahead of the theatre adaptation of his book landing at New Victoria Theatre in Woking from Wednesday 9th February to Saturday 12th February

Calling all families! The coolest Granny around is coming to Woking from Wednesday 9th February to Saturday 12th February.

The West End production of David Walliams’ Gangsta Granny is being brought to Woking by the producers of the hit stage shows, Horrible Histories and Billionaire Boy.

Inspired by Walliams’ own granny the show follows Ben as he dreads going to stay with his cabbage-obsessed granny every Friday. 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!

David Walliams Q&A:

Q. What inspired Gangsta Granny?

“When I was a child I would spend lots of time with my grandmas. Sometimes I would selfishly think spending time with them could be boring but when I got them on a subject like living in London during World War II when bombs were raining down, they would become very animated and I would be enthralled. I realised everyone has a story to tell.”

Q. What were your grannies like and are there any elements of their characters in Gangsta Granny?

“There was definitely a smell of cabbages in one of my grandmas’ houses. The other did break wind like a duck quacking when she walked across the room.”

Q. Many people would say there’s a special bond between children and their grandparents, why do you think that is?

“I think grandparents love being grandparents because they get to give the children back to the parents! Children love spending time with their grandparents because they love hearing their stories and being allowed to stay up past their bedtime.”

Q. When did you decide to write children’s fiction and what encouraged you?

“Ten years ago I had an idea for a story. What if a boy went to school dressed as a girl? I thought it would be a thought-provoking children’s book. That became The Boy in the Dress, the first of my children’s novels.”

Q. What are the delights of writing children’s fiction?

“The only limitation in a children’s book is your imagination. You can take children on magical journeys in books that many adults would be reluctant to go on.”

Q. And the challenges of writing for children?

“Children love to be scared but it can’t be too horrifying. Children love to laugh but it can’t be too rude. You always have to be the right side of the line.”

Q. You’ve often talked about Roald Dahl, what do you think makes him special?

“I think Dahl’s books always feel a little bit forbidden. He manages to balance the humour and scary elements in his stories perfectly.”

Q. Which Dahl books do you particularly like and why?

“The Twits is utterly hilarious and I love that it is a children’s book with no child characters.”

Q. Which other children’s writers did you enjoy as a child and why?

“I loved Dr Seuss books as a child, especially ‘Green Eggs and Ham’. His books are like nightmares come to life. They are rich and strange and utterly unlike anybody else’s work.”

Q. What do you think children enjoy in your books?

“I imagine they like the humour and that I don’t patronise them. I deal with quite big topics, crossdressing, homelessness, grief. I know children are a lot smarter than most grown-ups think.”

Q. What were your feelings on seeing Gangsta Granny adapted for the stage?

“It’s a huge thrill seeing Gangsta Granny have this whole new life on the stage. It has already been a TV film. People seem to really like the story. In fact, Gangsta Granny is my best-selling book by far and the stage production is brilliant.”

“There is lots of action in Gangsta Granny, especially when they try to steal the Crown Jewels.”

Q. Do you feel there are any particular challenges or difficulties with staging Gangsta Granny?

“There is lots of action in Gangsta Granny, especially when they try to steal the Crown Jewels – so it’s quite a challenge for the Birmingham Stage Company to bring those scenes to life, but they do it so wonderfully well.”

Q. Are there any scenes you particularly like seeing on stage?

“I like the characters of Ben’s mum and dad. Their obsession with ballroom dancing is very funny brought to life in the play.”

Q. Why were you keen to work with Birmingham Stage Company on the adaptation?

“I saw their Horrible Histories show which was superb. I loved the humour and the interaction with the audience, so I knew they were the right people to stage my book.

Q. What do you hope children will take away from watching Gangsta Granny on stage?

“The moral of the story is ‘don’t assume old people are boring just because they are old’. In fact, they are likely to have had a much more interesting life than yours. Talk to old folk, listen to their stories. They are bound to be full of magic and wonder.

Q. In what way do you think experiencing the stage show will differ from their experiences when reading the book?

“The great thing about seeing Gangsta Granny on stage is you will get to share it with an audience. So hopefully you will laugh and cry along with everyone else. That’s what makes theatre so special.”

Q. What do you think are the elements that make up a good theatrical production for children?

“Those for children need to be fun and fast-paced which Gangsta Granny certainly is.”

Q. Strictly Come Dancing raises its head in Gangsta Granny – would you like to be in the show and, if so, how do you rate your hopes of holding the glitter ball?

“I can’t dance at all (as you might have seen in the TV adaptation of Gangsta Granny when I tried to dance with Miranda Hart). So I would say my chances are less than zero.”

Gangsta Granny was adapted from David Walliams’ book by Neal Foster, actor-manager of Birmingham Stage Company. He has also directed the show. The show is suitable for ages 5+ and duration is about two hours.

Tickets from £13, fees apply. You can book tickets by calling the Box Office on 0844 871 7615 (Fees apply. Calls cost up to 7p per minute, plus your phone company’s access charge), Groups Booking Line 0207 206 1174 or online at ATGTICKETS.COM/Woking (fees apply).

Star Q&A: David Walliams

Round & About

David Walliams

Author & dad David Walliams, 49, talks about life & the arts ahead of the adaptation of his novel Billionaire Boy as a Covid-safe Car Park Party

Q. We’re excited about this show – are you on a mission to save Easter for families? “It’s the most brilliant thing, seeing a book you’ve written come to life. You feel like a magician because what was in your head is somehow now all real. I think people are craving entertainment, especially live, because although the TV has still been on, you haven’t been able to be part of an audience, so this is a great and safe way to enjoy a show.”

Q. Are you passionate about the arts during these difficult times? “Well, it is important. I have friends who are actors, directors, designers and so on who have been all out of work. They are all raring to go. I feel like the audience wants it too. It’s hard to put a value on the arts… they enhance your life, but you can’t put a figure on it. When you read something or see something though, it moves you. It changes the way you think, how you feel about the world and about life. We have always had a very very vibrant arts culture here and it’s something we really need to protect.”

Q. Billionaire Boy tells the story of Joe & his friendship with Bob. Do you think connection is especially important for children now? “It’s very important they can keep in touch with their friends at the moment. Luckily, technology exists, though not everyone has access to it, but at least with phones and computers you can see people and speak to them. Just checking in with people making sure they are okay is crucial at the moment, because a lot of people are struggling.”

Q. How would Joe’s toilet paper baron dad have reacted to last year’s stockpiling? “He would’ve been one of the few that benefited… him and Jeff Bezos! That whole thing was extraordinary wasn’t it? I almost forgot about it. Jack would’ve liked it. His BumFresh toilet paper was actually a good invention, dry on one side and wet on the other.”

Q. In 2016, you played Mrs Trafe the dinner lady in the TV version…. can audiences look forward to seeing you on stage? “I haven’t been asked to perform, but I want to come and see it and if I do, I’ll come on the stage and say hello.”

Q. Have you been busy over the last year? “Fortunately writing is something you can do in your own at home. Last year I brought out four books, two or three of which were written during lockdown and I’m writing my new one. So in that department I feel very lucky indeed.”

Q. If we gave you £1billion to spend today, what would you buy? “There’s one thing that Joe Spud has in the book which is a water slide going down from his bedroom to a swimming pool. He just gets out of bed and goes straight down a water slide. That is something I don’t have and it really pains me. So I’d get that water slide because water slides are so much fun. I love them!”

Billionaire Boy tours the UK, including Windsor Racecourse on 11th April & Newbury on 12th April. Book at carparkparty.com