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Interview with Tom Cawte from the cast of Gangsta Granny

Gangsta Granny 2018 at the Birmingham Stage Company. Photo by Mark Douet
Gangsta Granny 2018 at the Birmingham Stage Company. Photo by Mark Douet

David Walliams’ most popular story Gangsta Granny is back in the West End for two weeks following its national tour. This award-winning production, nominated for the Best Entertainment & Family Olivier Award, features an amazing cast, stunning sets and will have you dancing in the aisles!

Tom Cawte, who leads the company as Ben recently took time out to answer a few questions about Gangsta Granny.

Q; What were your thoughts when you first looked at the script of Gangsta Granny?
Tom: I knew the story and was impressed by how faithfully it had been adapted for the stage. I looked forward to engaging with something with a moral behind it, encouraging people not to judge based on stereotype and in particular for kids to give time to their grandparents – they might be old, but they can be a lot of fun too!

Q: Can you tell us about Gangsta Granny rehearsals?
Tom: It was one of the most relaxed atmospheres I’ve ever known in a rehearsal room. The production had been done before, so it was about giving our cast time to find new things and put our own stamp on an already really successful play. I enjoyed working with Neal Foster, who adapted and directs the show. His direction is to the point, he has a knack for recognising exactly where a scene isn’t working. He created a fun atmosphere which allowed the company to discover the comedy whilst sticking to the truth of the story.

Q; For those that haven’t read the book – what is Gangsta Granny about?
Tom: Ben is totally bored by having to spend every Friday night eating cabbage soup and playing scrabble with his Granny whilst his parents are off enjoying themselves. But when he finds out she has a big secret, his perception of her totally changes, she’s no longer his boring old Granny. Ben finds that without his preconceived ideas, they can become much closer, and they embark on an exciting adventure to the tower of London. It’s an action packed, fast paced comedy, with the strong underlying message about seeing past stereotypes. At its heart, two people find a friendship and closeness despite being at totally different stages of their lives.

Q: You play the part of Ben, can you tell us about him?
Tom: Ben is motivated by a couple of really simple things: his dream to be a plumber, and his need for companionship. His parents live in their own bubble, he doesn’t feel accepted for who he is and is lonely at home and at school. He’s eleven years old. I find playing kids really interesting. Ben is pretty mature for his age, but he still sees the world as a child does, he wants to follow his dreams and often lets his imagination run wild. It’s a great part because I get to have fun with it, he devises a plan to steal the Crown Jewels from the Tower of London with Granny and goes on the biggest adventure of his life. It just so happens that in doing this, he finds the friendship he’s been searching for.

Q: Who should get along to see the show?
Tom: Everyone! It’s really popular with kids of all ages who have read the book. But the story centres around three generations of one family, so anyone can relate to it. There’s a balance of cross-generational humour and emotionally connected storyline to make sure everyone is entertained. My friends and family have all really enjoyed it, even my own (not so Gangsta) Granny made an appearance and loved it.

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It’s Friday night and Ben knows that means only one thing – staying with Granny! There will be cabbage soup, cabbage pie and cabbage cake to eat and Ben knows one thing for sure – it’s going to be soooooo boring! But what Ben doesn’t know is that Granny has a secret – and Friday nights are about to get more exciting than he could possibly imagine, as he embarks on the adventure of a lifetime with his very own Gangsta Granny!

‘Gangsta Granny is my most popular book so it’s wonderful to see the brilliant BSC’s terrific adaptation back in the West End again. It’s a fantastic, award-winning show – and so much better than the book!’
David Walliams

Gangsta Granny
Harold Pinter Theatre
Tuesday 14th August – Sunday 26th August 2018

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