FamilyNorth East & YorkshireReview

George’s Marvellous Medicine – West Yorkshire Playhouse, Leeds

Writer: Roald Dahl

Adaptor: David Wood

Director: Julia Thomas

Music: Tasha Taylor-Johnson

Reviewer: Beverley Haigh

Following the success of previous Roald Dahl adaptations for the stage, Curve and Rose Theatre have joined forces once again with another fine collaboration worthy of Dahl’s classic creations. This production of George’s Marvellous Medicine marks David Wood’s eighth Dahl adaptation but his proliferation is in no way detrimental to this production and he continues to produce quality dramatisations for children.

Remaining faithful to Dahl’s original story, Wood only deviates from the original in the opening scene to introduce George and his family to the audience, typically through a child-friendly song, but he also establishes some context and validates Grandma’s reason for burdening herself on her hapless relatives.

Grandma is the antithesis of a vulnerable old lady. Feistily depicted by Lisa Howard, she arrives by a mobility scooter, clad in leopard print and updated as a gin-drinking brash northern anti-heroine. The more unpleasant Grandma becomes with her awkward demands, the more the audience sides with George as he attempts to transform her into the Grandma of his dreams via his magic potion.

George (played by the enthusiastic and effervescent Preston Nyman, who is perfectly suited to children’s theatre) is lacking in friends due to his reclusive upbringing on a remote farm and immerses himself in a fantasy escape world of reading. Inspired by the boy wizards from his books, George embarks on his own attempt at sorcery by combining the contents of his household cupboards, questioning with the audience everything from engine oil to flea powder (with the addition of brown shoe polish and gloss paint to authenticate the colour of Grandma’s usual medicine) to the encouragement of approving shrieks.

On feeding Grandma his crazy concoction, against her own advice to “never grow-up, always grow down” she shoots up to towering proportions, and although her transformation isn’t the most convincing, it is approached with humour, becoming ludicrous rather than credible. Chaos ensues with an oversized chicken producing colossal eggs, who has unsuspectingly met with the same treatment, portrayed hilariously and slightly hysterically by Chandni Mistry.

The animal testing and health and safety disaster are counterbalanced by a ‘Don’t try this at home’ song for the finale, presented with customary frivolity and high energy. Live music enhances the production played by talented multi-tasking performers, gentle audience participation assists George to replicate his spell, and alongside the requisite baddie and a wayward chicken, there is even a dash of satirical humour thrown in.

George’s Marvellous Medicine is fiendish fun for the whole family and ultimately everything turns out for the best. After all, Grandma was grumpy and bad-tempered.

Runs until 17th March 2018 | Image: Manuel Harlan

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The Yorkshire & North East team is under the editorship of Jacob Bush. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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