Billionaire Boy @ St Mary’s Church, Sheffield
Billionaire Boy is one of David Walliams many successful children’s books. Exposed checked out Heartbreak Productions touring show to see if the play could match up.
These days, David Walliams is to children’s literature what Heston Blumenthal is cooking, Ed Sheeran is to music and the Andrex puppy is to toilet roll. Omni-bloody-present. He’s the fastest growing children’s author in the UK and such is the vividness of his story telling and so striking are his characters, that they are ripe for translation to the stage.
And so, it’s travelling theatre troupe, Heartbreak Productions, who bring his third book, Billionaire Boy to Sheffield, in the rather curious surroundings of St Mary’s Church grounds near Bramall Lane.
Set in the round, and with a cast of just five, it tells the story of Joe, who’s dad Mr Spud makes his billions by inventing toilet roll which is wet on one side and dry on the other. He becomes the richest man in Britain and Joe becomes the ‘Billionaire Boy’ but struggles to find meaning and make genuine friends when he fears everyone is purely interested his money.
It’s light hearted amusement of course, primarily aimed at 7-12-year-olds, and the cast pitch it perfectly. Everyone’s here to have fun; there’s a bit of audience participation, the actors play up to the simple staging and low budget props, and they even make in-jokes about the fact that each one of them has to pay multiple roles and run in and out of the same scene as different characters.
But there is a message, of course. As good as Walliams is at creating grotesque villains and humble, unlikely heroes, he’s also one to make sure his stories have meaning.
I don’t think I’m giving too much away by telling you Joe’s dad loses it all in the end, and actually Joe finds much greater happiness in being poor and enjoying the simple pleasures of friends, family and a good, old fashioned shepherd’s pie.
But it was well before that conclusion that the cast asked the kids in the crowd what they would do if they won £1million… and I had a moment of unbridled pride.
Kid number one answers first: “I’d buy a toy shop.” Nice suggestion. Invest in something you love. Kid number two follows up with; “I’d put it towards Stumperlowe Hall.” Now that’s a massive house in in Fulwood according to my missus, worth a couple of million quid. So here we have a kid who’s about eight-year-old and he’s already thinking about getting on the property ladder.
Then they turn to my boy, Alfie and ask him the same question. He pauses for a while… a bit too long actually and I’m about to prompt him to say something but he pipes up before I come up with a suitable suggestion.
“I’d give it to my friends,” he says.
Lesson already learned.
Heartbreak Productions return to Sheffield at The Botanical Gardens from July 28-30 with the Agatha Christie-esque Murder on the Terrace. Head to https://www.heartbreakproductions.co.uk to buy tickets and see what else Heartbreak have on this summer.