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Billionaire Boy at the Garrick Theatre – review

The stage version of David Walliams' book is in the West End

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
The cast of Billionaire Boy
© Mark Douet

This is Birmingham Stage Company's third adaptation of a David Walliams bestseller, and makes a welcome return to the West End having first been seen in 2019.

As the title suggests the story centres on a boy, Joe Spud, who happens to be obscenely wealthy thanks to his Dad's invention of a toilet paper that's moist on one side. But there's one thing he discovers money can't buy - friendship. So he leaves his posh school and heads to the local comprehensive in search of it, but things get complicated when word spreads of his true identity.

It can't be claimed to be one of Walliams' more inventive ideas, and few of the characters venture far beyond stereotype, but nevertheless Billionaire Boy proves an enjoyable family treat. This is thanks in large part to the cast, who juggle numerous roles between them and provide more than enough charm to carry the day.

Chief among them is Matthew Gordon's highly likeable Joe, whose desperation to be seen as normal will strike a chord with many a kid. He is nicely paired by Jake Lomas as his unassuming friend Bob, while Benedict Martin imbues Dad with the requisite level of cartoonish foolishness.

Among the ensemble, Emma Matthews has great fun with dinner lady Mrs Trafe, whose ingredients include earwax and blu-tac, while Irfan Damani provides some welcome warmth as well-meaning shopkeeper Raj.

Like the characters, Jak Poore's songs can feel overly generic at times. But the title song is a genuine earworm and there is humour aplenty in numbers about private schools and school teacher phrases. Jacqueline Trousdale's set comprises mountains of toilet roll, which cleverly contorts into a range of settings including family home Bumfresh Towers. There's also a neat helicopter reveal that creates a ripple of 'oohs' among the young audience.

Pandemic restrictions aside, it's a great summer to take kids to the West End considering the depletion of tourists. And it's so nice to hear the sound of an auditorium of laughing children again. I've even missed the sweet wrappers.