The Birmingham Stage Company is back in the West End with an adaptation of David Walliams’ Billionaire Boy after their success with Gangsta Granny and Awful Auntie. This charming children’s show sees an ensemble cast tackle the story of Joe Spud (Mathew Gordon), the boy with pots of money but no friends.
Joe’s dad (played with cartoon comedy by Benedict Martin) has made his money through the invention of toilet tissue that is moist on one side and dry on the other, leading to a cacophony of bum jokes throughout the show, which pleases the children. Jacqueline Trousdale’s economical set makes full use of toilet rolls to create Joes home “Bum Fresh Towers”, the school and the shop manned by Raj (played by Irfan Damani who tries hard to play against Walliams’s stereotype). There are plenty of toe-tapping songs by Jack Poore, which bring the show to life.
Underneath the toilet humour and the stereotypes Gordon and Jake Lomas, who plays Joe’s only try friend Bob, bring out the heart in the piece with their sensitive and understated acting that draws the audience into the central moral of the piece: what does money matter if you don’t have love. Around them are larger-than-life characters, including a pair of bullies and a money-grabbing dinner lady (played with great comic timing by Emma Matthews), but the truth in the exchanges between Gordon and Lomas are what makes the show worth watching. Rosie Coles as Dad’s gold-digging fiancée Sapphire also really stands out, with a crystal clear singing voice and great movement precision.
The show is more low-budget than you would expect from the West End, but it does have it’s wow moment when the Dad arrives at the school in a helicopter. Neal Foster directs a tight ensemble with Mared Lewis making a notably charismatic West End debut.
Joe – Matthew Gordon
Dad – Benedict Martin
Raj – Irfan Damani
Mrs Trafe – Emma Matthews
Jayden – Matthew Chase
Sapphire – Rosie Coles
Bob – Jake Lomas
Understudy/ensemble – Raj Swamy
Understudy/ensemble – Mared Lewis
Adapter and Director – Neal Foster
Designer – Jackie Trousdale
Lighting Designer – Jason Taylor
Composer – Jak Poore
Sound Designer – Nick Sagar
Choreographers – Paul Chantry & Rae Piper of Chantry Dance
Assistant to the Director – Alison Fitzjohn
Design Assistant/s – Millie Else & Maisie Jackaman
Casting – Kay Magson
Production Manager – Adrian Littlejohns