This adaptation by Birmingham stage company of David Walliams’ novel Billionaire Boy is definitely a winner amongst devotees, and possibly, even the great man himself, according to the programme. I am reliably assured by one Oxford ten-year-old that it is completely true to the novel (excepting one character alteration towards the end).
Indeed, the Walliams formula of the rehabilitation of the outsider - existing where the extraordinary meets the everyday, as the underdog non-conformist wins out against the forces of the ridiculous - always makes for a good storyline. Add in a few ‘yuk’ moments; school dinners consisting of cockroach cake, breezeblock bake etc, and a subplot based around the discolouration of bottoms, and none of the under-12 audience seem to be complaining.
During the first half, though, before the mini bottle of Australian Shiraz red kicked in, I was beginning to wonder if this performance was suitable for adults. Partly because we won’t have a prescripted patina of Walliams’ plots and dialogues to re-digest. Or maybe due of a knee jerk reaction against adults playing children, subconscious loathing of watching wee Jimmy Krankie as a kid. Perhaps just the implausibility that a cacophony of regional accents and racial stereotypes bring to a stage set of towers of toilet roll? But despite this, this is a treat for your children - well choreographed and acted, with interesting set changes and funny characters.
The overarching message; money doesn’t make you happy and true friendship does is quite seasonal and if you’re trying to decide between this and the Panto for you kids this Christmas, well, Billionaire Boy might just be the lesser of the two evils. The weekday performance was thoughtfully timed, at 6pm, for a school night. Somewhat strangely given the author’s popularity, the theatre was running no where near capacity.
Returning to our ten-year-old's verdict on the show: the book version deserves 8/10, the film 6/10 and this play 9/10. As I say, it’s a clear winner for the under 12’s, and they won’t be disappointed if you take them to see it.