REVIEW: Billionaire Boy (Bloomsbury Theatre) ★★★

Birmingham Stage Company’s production of Billionaire Boy comes to Bloomsbury Theatre for the Christmas holidays as part of its UK tour to November 2020.

Joe Spud is Billionaire Boy, a twelve year old whose father had made his fortune in toilet paper, making him the richest boy in the country. While he has all the things money can buy, he’s lacking in real friends and his father’s love. In a bid to find some friends he begs his father to let him go to the local comprehensive school where he can reinvent himself. Enter a swathe of characters, good, bad and somewhere in-between, set to a score by Jak Poore with lyrics from Neal Foster.

This is a fast paced show with a set of many moving parts making good use of the toilet roll imagery. Highlights are Joe’s Dad arriving at school by helicopter and a song by the teachers that will make the adults smile.

The cast of nine work hard and lots of quick changes are required; there are no weak links in the casting and everyone is worth watching when they get their moment in the spotlight. It’s good to hear a range of regional accents on the stage.

Matthew Gordon brings Joe to life with energy and enthusiasm as he navigates his new life. Davy Bell is Bob, the friend we know Joe needs even when he can’t see it. Gordon and Bell share some touching moments from their early bonding as the outsiders at school through their shared love of chocolate, their falling out and reconciliation. Jason Furnival embraces the role of Joe’s Dad, distracted by his wealth and his young new girlfriend (Rosie Coles) while replacing affection for cash. Aosaf Afzal as Raj, the local corner shop owner and Emma Matthews as Mrs Trafe, the school dinner lady are the friendly grown ups. Bernard Mensah is Jayden, the cool kid at school; Mared Lewis and Joe Sangha work well as the ensemble, switching from school kids to adults with ease.

Walliams was the UK’s biggest-selling author in 2017 and 2018. Neal Foster from Birmingham Stage Company has adapted and directed the show; BSC has become one of the world’s leading producers of theatre for children and families; after their previous productions of Gangsta Granny and Awful Aunty, fans of the books will not be disappointed. You are in safe hands if you’re looking for a show to entertain children during the holidays.

This is a show that embraces a love for bum jokes which will go down well with the target audience; there are some good moral messages at play here. The age guidance is five plus but older children will definitely enjoy this more, especially if they have read the book and know the characters.

Reviewed by Rhiannon Evans
Photo: Mark Douet

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