George’s Marvellous Medicine is the latest in a line of Roald Dahl classics adapted for performance by The Birmingham Stage Company. Featuring an inflating grandmother, a giant chicken and a farmyard full of puppets, this show for young children is certainly more fun than a night in front of CBeebies.
Using live actors, basic puppetry and cartoon-esque effects, the show tells the classic tale of George, a young boy who attempts to sweeten up his battle-axe of a grandmother by concocting a home-made medicine. Cue Alice in Wonderland style shape-shifting, as the medicine makes Grandma grow up through the ceiling then shrink down to nothing as she gets her inevitable comeuppance for being bad mannered and mean.
This is the fifth Dahl story adapted by David Wood for The BSC, yet the show seems to shy away from the author’s trademark grotesque in favour of a more family-friendly, interactive production. Triumphantly, in spite of this, the biggest laughs of the night went to a gag involving a whoopee cushion and a mention on ‘piggy poo’.
A mayhem-filled scene at the end of Act 1 goes some way to capturing the anarchy of Dahl’s style and, with Jason Taylor’s lights a-flashing, Matthew Scott’s score and the actors running around whilst wrestling with puppets, it is a moment of theatrical delight.
Jacqueline Trousdale’s design is suitably reminiscent of a children’s TV set, whilst the actors’ presenter-style delivery of the text will alienate any Dahl fans over the age of eight.
Not that the youngest children in the audience seemed to mind. They screamed magic spells along with the protagonist, helped to stir the cauldron from their seats and clapped along to the music until the end of the (somewhat abrupt) grand finale.
As the house lights came up, my 6 year old guest Harrison told me that he wanted to watch the show again, and what higher praise could The BSC wish than that?