THE books of David Walliams are ideal for stage adaptation – easy to follow, crazy characters, mild peril, mad settings and enough fart jokes to keep everyone happy.

Here we had Awful Auntie, the comedian’s seventh book and best-selling children’s novel of 2014, brought to life at Lighthouse by the estimable Birmingham Stage Company.

This is the same group that toured Walliams’s Gangsta Granny in 2022 – as well as being behind the live versions of Horrible Histories and other Walliams books – so have good form in this particular field.

So, with grandsons aged eight and five in tow (the eight-year-old knew the book verbatim) we settled in for a tale featuring a stately home, young heiress in danger, giant owl, certifiable butler, ghost and the titular despicable relation on the female side.

The story, in a nutshell, is that Stella Saxby wakes up from a three-month coma in December 1933 to find out she is the sole heir to grand Saxby Hall after her parents had been killed in a car crash.

Kindly Aunt Alberta is on hand to care for the 12-year-old child, but everything is not as it seems because Alberta has formulated a dastardly plot to trick Stella out of her inheritance and claim Saxby Hall for herself.

Cue a battle between good and evil played out in various parts of the hall – bedroom, hall, coal cellar, owl cage – on an ingeniously built set full of doors, stairs and secret passages.

Will Stella triumph? What really happened in that crash? Why is there a giant owl flying about? Just who is that ghost? And why does that detective seem familiar? All questions are answered in a well-rounded plot.

Birmingham Stage Company founder Neal Foster is the driving force behind this production, not only adapting the material and directing the action, but also starring as a beautifully over the top Aunt Alberta.

Annie Cordoni plays stiff upper lip Stella with a suitable mix of peril and determination; Matthew Allen is in full Oliver! mode as Soot the Cockney rhyming slang spouting ghost, with Zain Abrahams suitably befuddled as the ancient retainer Gibbon.

However, plaudits must go to Emily Essery, the actress/puppeteer behind Wagner the owl – no mean feat with a creature that size.

It is, as Walliams says himself, a real hoot.

The production runs until Sunday.