Widely regarded as one of Roald Dahl’s most beloved children’s books of all time, George’s Marvellous Medicine has certainly bottled up an impressive thirty-two years of shelf life for itself. With countless stage adaptations under its belt, this one-of-a-kind tale seems never to get old. The story follows eight-year-old farm boy George Kranky, who decides to brew the remedy of a lifetime for his nasty old grandma when she becomes just too much to bear – resulting in a treatment of hilarious and unexpected adventures.
A delight for the whole family, this is a production that can definitely be swallowed with a smile.
In this brand-new production from the University of Kent’s long-running theatre group T24, director Elliot Libird brings a distinctly pantomimic and family-friendly feel to the story. A blend of clever gags and silly chase scenes compliment the intelligently fast-paced script, guaranteed to keep even the most fidgety of children glued to their seats. In addition, a dash of self-aware humour keeps the parents quietly chuckling to themselves. A concoction of brightly-coloured props and innovative puppetry aid the more visual comedic elements, whilst a single guitarist holds his own as an unobtrusive yet effective accompanist to the piece.
Yet, by far the standout ingredient of T24’s magic potion of a production is the vibrancy of their performers. Tom Brace portrays the title character with infectious enthusiasm, captivating the heart of every child in the audience with all the flair and ease of a seasoned pantomime performer. “George, it’s behind you! George, you forgot something! George, look out!” the younger members of the audience scream in delight, right down to the shyest little girl in the row behind me. Barnaby Chadwick delivers a deliciously malevolent performance as George’s nightmare of a grandma, whilst an energetic ensemble are resourcefully used to their full potential as everything from background singers to pieces of scenery.
Unfortunately, even the enthusiasm of the cast cannot quite save the second act from sitting in the cabinet a little past its sell-by date. Repetitive jokes and a faintly anti-climactic, slightly rushed ending cannot help but leave an unsatisfied taste in one’s mouth. Perhaps a spoonful or two more of Roald Dahl’s trademark dark humour might have given the second act more of the potency that it needed.
Nonetheless, this is a fresh interpretation of Roald Dahl’s timeless tale. A delight for the whole family, this is a production that can definitely be swallowed with a smile.