Roald Dahl’s recurring themes of ill befalling the rude and obnoxious and the importance of good manners are all on display in the Birmingham Stage Company’s production of George’s Marvellous Medicine.
George, a school boy left to amuse himself for the holidays has his revolting grandmother forced upon him, when she comes to stay indefinitely. What is a boy wrapped up in his book of wizardry to do? Well, create a potion and cast a spell to make her nicer, of course.
From this basic pre-text a tale of giant chickens and Nobel Prizes spirals out of George’s control to the obvious amusement of the audience.
The central performances are patchy. Iain Ridley, as George is great and full of energy, as he throws yet more vile ingredients into the pot. Granny (Deborah Vale) is less convincing and her rendition was too pantomime dame and not quite unpleasant enough. This is Roald Dahl, after all, in his world villains are truely repulsive. Alison Fitzjohn and Colin R Campbell as Mum and Dad are both game in smaller roles.
George’s Marvellous Medicine does, unfortunately, suffer from the same affliction that many touring children’s shows share and that is one of stretch. How do you eke out a short and simple story to justify giving it an interval and make it commercially viable. Director Phil Clark adds to David Wood's adaptation, prolonging a chase scene either side of the interval just a little bit further than necessary and noticeably padding out one or two other scenes.
All that said, however, men in their forties aren’t the target demographic for this show and my co-pilot for the night, and the rest of the audience seemed to love it. As with all good kid’s shows there is plenty of audience interaction and this works, for the most part, though, my five year old was more interested in her bed than Granny’s fate by the end.