George’s Marvellous Medicine – Review – Sheffield Lyceum
By Richard Jones, January 2018
The successor to Roald Dahl’s crown as the nation’s favourite children’s author, David Walliams, was all over the TV schedules during Christmas. And although I’m a big fan of Walliams’ stories, as are my two daughters, I don’t think you will ever beat Dahl’s tales for strong moral messages and sheer entertainment.
Despite all of his books being seemingly done to death on stage and screen, there is still an appetite for them, 27 years after his death.
The latest Dahl adaptation to hit the stage in Yorkshire is George’s Marvellous Medicine and I took my seven-year-old daughter Evelyn along to the show at the Lyceum in Sheffield.
Evelyn had read several of Dahl’s stories, but George’s Marvellous Medicine wasn’t one of them, so I was looking forward to seeing how she enjoyed the show without really knowing the story.
“World turned upside down”
Published in 1981, Dahl’s 12th novel is the tale of a lonely, put-upon child who takes his revenge on a nasty and unpleasant adult in the only way he knows how. It begins with young George enjoying life with his mum and dad down on their farm. Cut off from his friends during the school holidays, he disappears into magical books and his imagination.
However, the family’s peaceful world is turned upside down by the arrival of Grandma. She is not very nice, likes to gobble up slugs and bugs and soon has everyone living in fear of her unreasonable demands via a loud siren. George bears the brunt, not least having to give up his bedroom for her.
Eventually, he devises a plan – concocting marvellous medicine, using a variety of ingredients including deodorant, shampoo, floor polish, horseradish sauce, gin, animal medicines, engine oil and anti-freeze to transform his Grandma from nasty to nice. The inevitable ‘hilarious consequences’ occur, and, as ever with Dahl’s tales, matters are resolved in brutal, dramatic fashion.
“Fine comedic performance”
In this production, George is played with boyish energy and likeable eagerness by Preston Nyman. Lisa Howard is great fun as a blunt, Yorkshire-accented Joan Collins-esque Grandma, kitted out in leopardskin, wielding her grabber like an evil claw, and managing to operate some very unwieldy-looking giant arms while perched on the roof of the set.
There are also a fine comedic performance from Chandni Mistry as the giant chicken and Catherine Morris as Mum, while Justin Wilman plays Dad, along with numerous musical instruments.
George’s Marvellous Medicine is slighty less gross-out than other Dahl adaptations, and this production from Curve and Rose Theatre Kingston, directed by Julia Thomas, follows up on the success of Fantastic Mr Fox, The Twits and The Witches.
“Perfect for all ages”
It features bubbles, bangs and bodily functions as well as plenty of audience participation in which Evelyn and the other children (and adults) in the audience happily joined in. The Lyceum Theatre venue was also perfect for adding to the ‘oh no she won’t’ pantomime atmosphere.
In short, this production is perfect for all ages and a great family night out at the theatre. This particular dose Medicine went down a treat with Evelyn, that’s for sure.
“Growing is a nasty childish habit,” the horrible Grandma famously says during the show. But thanks to this and Dahl’s other timeless tales, we can all be kids at heart forever.
images: Manuel Harlan