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A Roald Dahl classic!

The stage show of George's Marvellous Medicine brings potion-making antics to Torbay in March

The great thing about living this far West? My Muddies in other counties get to see and review some great shows – and they give me the heads-up when they’re on their way to our neck of the woods.  Case in point, below.  Thanks to Debbie of Muddy Sussex Fame!

As a lifelong bookworm, I have many favourite quotes… the last line of The Great Gatsby, whole chunks of Hamlet, and this:  ‘she had a small puckered-up mouth, like a dog’s bottom.’ Yes, really. It’s classic Roald Dahl and it’s from George’s Marvellous Medicine, which is in Torbay this week, bringing farm mechanics, potion hocus pocus and a bit of magic to the Princess Theatre in Torquay.

scientist on stage

Preston Nyman as George, photo by Manuel Harlan

Those of you from my era may remember the somewhat legendary reading of the book Rik Mayall gave on Jackanory one year, slopping ingredients all over the place. It was hilarious (you can still find a very grainy verison on YouTube).

It’s not as full a story as a lot of other Dahl books, the central plot is pretty simple and because of this I’d say it’s better for younger children – my eight-year-old nephew had a good time but I suspect his ten-year-old brother might have been less engaged.

In a nutshell, George has a scary grandma he suspects may be a witch and he substitutes her medicine with one of his own invention in an attempt to make her nicer, prompting some rather unexpected results.

actors on stage

photo by Manuel Harlan

The set is great and grabbed our interest before the show had even started. George’s ramshackle farmyard home is brought to life in a steampunk kind of way with fun bicycle operated machines and chickens in cupboards. There’s also a bank of TV screens flashing up messages at certain points.

actors on stage

photo by Manuel Harlan

The potion making is the main event of course and there’s some fun audience interaction as George holds up various items and gets you to shout ‘in’ or ‘out’. Thus I was somewhat guiltily yelling encouragement to a boy to feed toilet cleaner to his Granny… At the interval when we were discussing the worst things in the potion my nephew already knew my verdict as I’d apparently gasped at the nail polish and antifreeze.

scientists wearing goggles on stage

photo by Manuel Harlan

There’s a warning about not touching the real medicine cabinet (though animal pills all go into the mix) and the disclaimer is covered off in a ‘don’t try this at home’ song at the end.

A bouncy adult (Preston Nyman) plays George and his granny (Lisa Howard) is a lot of fun – a sort of evil version of Jane McDonald with a penchant for leopard print, gin and slugs. There’s also a small ensemble cast, one of whom appears as a giant punk chicken.

woman on stage on mobility scooter

Lisa Howard as Grandma, photo by Manuel Harlan

I enjoyed recognising fun rhymes and descriptions from the book and the simple special effects like the glowing medicine tub, magic sparks and giant grandma bossing George and his parents around from the top of the set.

My nephew’s favourite part was a fantasy sequence in which George imagines his granny is nice – partly because it features some good dance moves and mainly because it features a whoopee cushion.

acting on stage

Chandni Mistry as the chicken, photo by Manuel Harlan

Being a bit of a mimic he was also practising the ‘don’t try this at home’ message afterwards in the voices of the actors. Still, I think I’ll be proceeding with caution if he offers me a funny smelling drink any time soon.

George’s Marvellous Medicine is at the Princess Theatre in Torquay from Wed 7 – Sat 10 March. Tickets are from £20. 

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