George’s Marvellous Medicine review

GEORGE takes a very long time to make his marvellous medicine in this play. He starts in the bathroom, moves to the bedroom, then the kitchen, then the farm shed where he finds all the cures for the chickens, cows and pigs, the anti-freeze and the oil....and finally the brown paint to make it right colour.

George’s Marvellous Medicine by Roald Dahl, presented by The Birmingham Stage Company at Cambridge Corn Exchange until Thursday, January 3. Review by ANGELA SINGER.

The adults might well have been nodding off through this repetitive sequence where George (played valiantly by Iain Ridley, who is on stage by himself a lot of the time) holds up each bottle and asks the audience “in?” before slurping the liquid into the pot to pantomime-style sound effects.

However, the children really were paying attention. Later on, when George has to recreate the medicine and he has forgotten which rooms he went in and which lotions and potions were added to his mix, the youngsters were able to remind him in voices good and strong.

Deborah Vale as grandma really does grow up through the roof of the elaborate set in impressive style and the cutest part of the play is when at the end she shrinks back down again.

My eight-year-old companion enjoyed seeing the book he knew unfold before his eyes. He knew the story in detail and said with satisfaction when the furniture polish went into the medicine: “I was just wondering where the furniture polish was!” He liked being able to contrast the book and the play.

However, some might feel the show is too faithful to the book – without having Roald Dahl’s wonderful descriptions to lighten the grimness of the story.

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If it’s the first play you have seen, just watching a giant Chicken run about on stage and being asked to shout out things is fun. However, us old lags who have been seeing Christmas shows for decades and have a lot of previous may well feel sold a bit short. There is no attempt to make this into a cheerful Christmas show with song, dance or slapstick. There was one moment when there could have been an exchange of “oh yes it is” “oh no it isn’t” but that moment came and went. There is no glitter. It’s difficult to mount a spectacular with a cast of five.

Grandma isn’t a funny dame. She doesn’t tell jokes. She is just nasty. Mum and Dad (Laura Dalgleish and Richard Mullens) slick actors as they are, don’t get given much humour either. There were chuckles here and there but no one was splitting their sides. Roald Dahl made spitefulness and revenge rather clever on paper but this show needs a lot more sugar to help the medicine go down.