Sunderland dancers bring David Walliams’ best-selling book alive on Empire stage

Sunderland Empire's Gangsta Granny
Front from left dancer's Rhiane Finley and Alex Pattinson
Back from left Ben's parents Rachel Stanley and Benedict Martin
Sunderland Empire's Gangsta Granny Front from left dancer's Rhiane Finley and Alex Pattinson Back from left Ben's parents Rachel Stanley and Benedict Martin
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Sunderland dancers are helping to bring alive one of David Walliams’ best-selling books.

Rhiane Finley, from Pallion, and Alex Pattinson, who attends Sunderland College, won a place in the spotlight in Gangsta Granny after impressing producers with their dance skills.

Sunderland Empire's Gangsta Granny
Gilly Tompkins as Granny and Ashley Cousins as Ben

Sunderland Empire's Gangsta Granny Gilly Tompkins as Granny and Ashley Cousins as Ben

Earlier this year, Birmingham Stage Company put out a call to find local female dancers to perform a solo piece in the talent contest scene during the play’s run at Sunderland Empire.

Rhiane and Alex were chosen from 500 entries to play Diane, a role which they alternate in the adaptation of the best-selling children’s book.

Seventeen-year-old Rhiane, who attends Kathleen Knox Dance School, said: “I saw that the company were looking for dancers and sent in my video entry of a dance they’d asked me to perform. I’ve danced on the Empire stage before in summer school productions and ballets, but it’s great to be part of a professional production like this.

“It’s also great to perform to child audiences. You have to work hard to keep them entertained, so it makes you step your game up.”

Sunderland Empire's Gangsta Granny
Gilly Tompkins as Granny and Ashley Cousins as Ben

Sunderland Empire's Gangsta Granny Gilly Tompkins as Granny and Ashley Cousins as Ben

Alex, 17, a dance student at Sunderland College, said: “I think around 500 girls auditioned for the role, so there was a lot of competition, and it’s a great feeling to know they were impressed with my performance.

“I received some great feedback from the producers and I’m really excited to be part of the show.”

Gangsta Granny, which was first published in 2011, tells the story of Ben and his Granny as they embark on the adventure of a lifetime.

It’s from the pen of David Walliams, who found fame on comedy series Little Britain and is now the best-selling author for children in the country.

Sunderland Empire's Gangsta Granny
From left Rhiane Finley and Alex Pattinson

Sunderland Empire's Gangsta Granny From left Rhiane Finley and Alex Pattinson

David began his publishing career at Harper Collins in early 2008 with his debut novel The Boy in the Dress.

Three years later he published Gangsta Granny, which went straight to number 1 in the children’s book charts.

•Gangsta Granny is at Sunderland Empire until Sunday, May 14. To read a review of show click here