Thursday, 20 October 2016

"George's Marvellous Medicine" by Roald Dahl
Birmingham Stage Company.
There'll always be a child hidden deep within every adult and it's plays such as those written by Roald Dahl that joyfully bring the naughty child to the fore.
Possibly one of the darkest of Dahl's scripts where George Kranky and his family get a last minute visit, well a visit without an end date, to their farm. Granny is not the apple pie baking rosy-cheeked elderly lady who smells of Murray Mints and lavender. Oh no, she is a bossy, spiteful, nasty piece of work who bosses George around for being lazy, on his school holidays of all things. She also dislikes George's father, Mr Kranky.
Grandma takes over George's room and likes George to be at her beck and call. This includes the dispensation of her medicine. George decides that her medicine needs upgrading and decides to make his own very special concoction, with some spectacular results. "Growing is a nasty childish habit," she chides George for, but she is soon to have a growing spurt of her own!
Ed Thorpe, a local lad from Southwell, plays George. I can remember seeing Ed at Lakeside a couple of years ago in a children's play called "Tiger Bones and other Stories", so I knew that playing a child like character would be no issue. There's a sinister side to George as he is making up the medicine but also a quite naive outlook as he excitably looks forward to the potion's results.
If only Grandma knew what George had got for you!
George's Mum and Dad are played by Tessa Vale and Richard Mullins and the wonderful Grandma is played by Tessa's twin sister, Deborah Vale. Inside the over-sized chicken costume is Tom Eykelof.
The set is very cleverly designed by Jacqueline Trousdale and adapts to the effects that emerge throughout the play, which I'm not going to tell you if you've not read the book or seen the play before.
David Wood's adaptation shows George as a put upon child who takes his revenge on his nasty, witch-like Granny and slowly reels in the children in the audience into an almost panto-like participation in aiding and abetting George in his criminal act.
The aftershow announcement though does advise not to create your own marvellous medicine at home. I'll be watching the news and looking in the Nottingham Post for an upsurge of Grandma poisonings!
Jason Taylor, who designed the lighting, created a creepy feel with the lighting and atmosphere, especially with the mixing of the cruel cocktails. Mixed with the chanted spell which brought back images of the Witches in Mac**** (The Scottish Play) for creepiness.

The timing and design of the sound effects from Tom Lishman were crazy and rather fun.

With the popularity of shows like "Horrible Histories", this kind of play is going to be a smash with adults. Kids will like it too.
The music is catchy, thanks to Matthew Scott, who has had dealings with some big musical names in the past, having produced Martha Wainwright and Anthony & The Johnstons.
A lovely playful direction by Phil Clark hit just the right balance between sadistic joy and childlike playfulness.
With the setting being on a farm, there are several appearances from animals including a giant chicken that runs riot, a bull which attempts an escape and a giant cow. All adding to the delicious anarchy.
An entertaining and pacy piece of theatre which isn't just aimed towards the kids because any age will love this show. And if you don'r believe me, pop down to the Nottingham Theatre Royal and see for yourself any evening until Saturday 22 October 2016.

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