David Woods’ new adaptation of George’s Marvellous Medicine,  presented by Birmingham Stage Company captures the slightly sinister element of Roald Dahl’s work. The dark element is when George, responding to ill-treatment by his beastly grandmother, compiles a concoction of flea powder, engine oil, lavatory cleaner, paint and more revolting ingredients, to make her less disagreeable.

If you think George is wicked, you must also blame the young audience who, after a slow start, uninhibitedly egg him on. This is due to the believable performance of Clark Devlin as the protagonist. His ability to include the audience in everything he does makes the George very engaging. He has an almost pantomime attraction which pays off with loud responses, especially after the interval.

The other most charismatic character, the grumpy grandma from hell, is played by Erica Poole and she also does well, as the audience clearly believe that she is vile to George. Staying with the young hereo in the school holidays, she spends her time strutting around and bossing George so much that he devises his Marvellous Medicine to make her more like the kind granny of his dreams (also played by versatile Erica).

The medicine doesn’t work but, in an amazing special effect, in a puff of smoke, grandma grows taller and taller, and shoots through the farmhouse roof. The topsy turvy farmhouse set is incredibly imaginative thanks to designer, Jackie Trousdale.  The lifelike sounds of animals and ingredient glugging are created by Sound Designer, Tom Lishman and along with Matthew Scott’s jolly music, these elements work wonderfully well.

After all the excitement, George’s relatively sane dad (Morgan Philpott) has an idea. If the medicine can make grandma grow, it can make his livestock bigger and earn him lots of money. This is hilariously illustrated by Jason O’Brien as a giant chicken who clucks across the stage, flapping his huge wings.

The kid behind me nearly falls off his seat with laughter as well as joining in enthusiastically with the chanting. Unfortunately, the second time the brew is mixed,  the result is unexpectedly traumatic.

The show ends happily with some commonsense health and safety advice for the children. “Don’t try this at home.”

George's Marvellous Medicine is a lively, dark and funny show, which despite a slow star will keep your children amused for its sheer wickedness. 

- Julia Taylor