David Walliams’ most popular story Gangsta Granny is back in the West End for two weeks following a national tour. Tom Cawte leads the company as Ben and we caught up with him to find out more.
You’re leading the cast in Gangsta Granny when it returns to the West End this August, what can you tell us about the show?
It’s an action packed, fun, family comedy with something for all ages. At the centre of the story is Ben, who is forced to go and visit his Granny every Friday night whilst his parents go off and enjoy their evening. Ben is consigned to boring nights of playing scrabble and eating cabbage soup. He feels isolated, with seemingly nothing in common with either Granny or his Mum and Dad who are unsupportive of his dreams. The story has a lovely message behind it, when Ben finds out Granny has a big secret, his perception of her totally changes. It becomes about two people who are generations apart finding a way to enjoy each other’s companionship. There are plenty of comic moments along the way as they embark on an adventure to the tower of London
How did you feel when you found out you had got the role?
A mixture of delighted and a little terrified. I’d been lucky enough to have Lou, who plays Granny, in my recall audition and it was great to get a taste of working with her. Both her and Neal Foster, who adapted the story and directs the show, were really welcoming. I was aware it was going to be hard work and lots to learn, but also trusted it would be an enjoyable process with those two – and it has been! I was pleased to be able to engage with a story with a strong moral centre, encouraging people not to judge others based on stereotype and accept them for who they really are. To spread that message around the country, especially to so many young people, has been a pleasure.
How have you been getting to know the rest of the cast?
We’ve been touring for the last five months. The nature of being on the road together for that long means you get to know each other pretty well, you have lots of time in new places where you don’t know anyone else. We get to explore each place in our time off, but spend a lot of time together in the theatre. We do a warm up as a company every day as something we can share before the show. We all get on really well which is nice, it’s a very relaxed company.
What do you enjoy most about David Walliams writing?
I think it’s a beautifully crafted story which is relatable to everyone, that’s my favourite thing about it. He’s writing about family, and family not getting on because they’re so familiar with each other that they’re blind to the unique qualities they each have. The uniting of two people who are not only a couple of generations apart but approaching life from wildly different perspectives is great. We get to see two very lonely people, at different stages in their lives, gradually break down barriers and find genuine connection and friendship with one another. David is definitely coming to the show this August and I’m certainly interested to get his feedback, he saw the previous cast, but it’ll be great to hear his opinions on this fresh production.
What are you looking forward to most about performing in the West End?
It’s a first for me, so the whole experience is one I’m really excited about. Having done the tour and been to lots of lovely theatres, it’s nice to round things off bringing it into town. We only performed for four or five days in each venue so a couple of weeks at the Pinter seems like a luxury. Pretty much all my friends and family are based in the South, so I’m looking forward to sharing the show with people I know who haven’t seen it already. I think it’ll be awesome just to be in amongst the West End buzz too.
Do you think younger audiences who know the book will be surprised by the stage version?
It’s a really faithful adaptation of the book by Neal. It’s fast paced like the book is, with an ensemble cast bringing to life all of the colourful characters that readers are familiar with. There are some really poignant moments that are carried through, as well as the ridiculous humour, plenty of fart jokes and even an embarrassing dance competition which goes horrendously wrong for Ben. The ending has a different twist, I don’t want to spoil it, so I’ll leave it as a little cliff hanger, they’ll have to come and see…
Gangsta Granny is at The Harold Pinter Theatre 14th – 26th August 2018. Buy Tickets