Birmingham Stage Company

George's Marvellous Medicine

2 November 2017 – 17 November 2017

George and Geri Halliwell


Geri Halliwell came to see George's Marvellous Medicine with her daughter Bluebell. Geri and Bluebell loved the show especially all the animals!


Phil Clark's production revels in Dahl's anarchic vision and its own furious energy. David Wood's adaptation gradually makes the young audience deliciously complicit in George's outrageous experiment. This is a very nicely put together affair that celebrates the anarchy of Dahl with great gusto and a naughty sense of fun
The Guardian 

The BSC’s adaptation of George's Marvellous Medicine is cacophonically good fun. An exceptionally pungent and effective piece of kids theatre. It's a riot!
Time Out 

Staged in a beautiful farmhouse set, with impressive puppets, amazing special effects and truly magic tricks up its sleeve, George’s Marvellous Medicine perfectly demonstrates that children’s theatre is very rarely as simple as one might expect. A wickedly mischievous tale!
Society of London Theatre Reviews 

An extremely entertaining evening. I was genuinely impressed by the whole performance, as were the children who declared it to be “the coolest show ever
Bristol Evening Post 

It would be very difficult to find a trip to the theatre as fun as this one. The production is superbly staged!
Jersey Post 

As evenings at the theatre go, you’ll be hard-pushed to find anything more entertaining than this fabulous family fun!
Cambridge News 

You’ll love this excellent production that had us hooked from the minute we took our seats. Never have I seen so many children so enthralled!
Hull Daily Mail 



by Sam Marlowe

There's an emphatic warning, both in the programme and at the end of the Birmingham Stage Company's performance, against attempting to re-create young George's magical potion at home. Let's hope that enthusiastic audiences aged 4 and over absorb those words of caution - otherwise there could be some very poorly grannies, not just in the Midlands but up and down the country when Phil Clark's production embarks on its lengthy tour.

Adapted by David Wood, the acclaimed children's dramatist, from Roald Dahl's 1981 book, this is the story of a boy who decides to enliven his grumpy grandmother's visit by doctoring her medicine in the most stomach-turning fashion. As she sits squawking irascibly in her armchair, while George's hard-pressed parents are busy running the family farm, he mixes a brew that even by Dahl's exuberant standards of grotesquerie is utterly revolting. Shampoo, shoe polish, flea powder, engine oil - in it all goes, while Clark Devlin's mischievous George speculates with relish as to what will happen when Grandma (Erika Poole) takes a sip. "Will she go pop? Will she explode? Will she go flying up the road?" he muses, giggling.

The results of his scheme are even more outlandish: Grandma levitates, bursts into flame and grows into a giant, head and shoulders shooting through the farm roof. It's a pickle - but Dad quickly realises that if he can use George's concoction on his animals and transform the struggling farm's fortunes, it might just turn out to be liquid gold.

Clark's staging, designed by Jacqueline Trousdale, with puppetry by Roman Stefanski, enters into the quirky, fantasy world of the story with aplomb and an enormous sense of glee. In the higgledy-piggledy farmhouse, Mum (Alison Fitzjohn) can be glimpsed milking a cow through the rear of the colourful kitchen; a chicken that sups the medicine swells to a monstrous size; and Grandma's miraculously stretching legs and torso are achieved with wonderfully witty simplicity.

Devlin delivers Dahl's pungent, rhyme-laden language with infectious delight and there is a refreshingly non-PC, off-the-wall, subversive aspect to his revenge on Poole's witchy granny. Nasty, naughty fun.


Review by Diane Parkes

This new adaptation of Roald Dahl's tale by the Birmingham Stage Company is, well, marvellous. It has all the ingredients needed for a really good family show.

Firstly David Wood's adaptation is entrancing from start to finish. George, played enthusiastically by relative newcomer Clark Devlin, draws us into the action by speaking straight to the audience and enlisting the children as his friends for the half term holiday. From that moment on they are hooked.

That holiday does not go quite as planned when George's horrible grandmother, played with a wicked turn by Erika Poole, comes to stay and makes everyone's lives a misery. When George decides to create a medicine to make Grandma nice, chaos ensues.

And that chaos is captured beautifully by director Phil Clarke with the help of designer Jacqueline Trousdale's imagination. Grandma literally grows until she breaks out of the ceiling, chicken puppets become larger than the human characters and then chase them around the stage in a Benny Hill-style melee and George's medicine glugs and fizzes before us all.

Audience participation is the key to this production with children, and adults, urged to help create the medicine - and then remember the ingredients when George has to recreate it for his parents (BSC stalwarts Alison Fitzjohn and Tom Woodman). With youngsters shouting out and George responding, a merry time is had by all.

I watched it with some school groups who could have lifted the rafters, they were so happy shouting at George! Their enthusiasm was infectious and it was hard not to become a child myself for a couple of hours.

BSC concludes by bringing the action back down to common sense and urging the audience not to try any of this medicine-making at home.

5 Stars


Review by Pat Ashworth

David Wood's sparkling new adaptation of the Roald Dahl classic gets the ear-splitting, roof-raising response it deserves at the Old Rep. Mayhem reigns in flurries of hens, squirming piglets and mad glimpses of bulls, while George tries to read his book, please his hard-working parents and plot revenge on the grandma from hell.

Clark Devlin as George has the young audience on his side from the word go, with a natural performance that puts them right in his shoes. The naughty thing, the very Dahl thing, is that he makes them his co-conspirators and there's mounting glee on both sides as he eggs them on and throws in ever more dreadful ingredients for grandma's medicine. They have an active part in making things happen that even the toughest enter into with gusto.

Erika Poole relishes the role of Grandma, with "a face puckered up like a dog's bottom" and knocking back the gin. There a wonderful dream sequence with a whoopee cushion, where George imagines what a fun grandma would be like. The pace of it all is aided by a split level set of farmyard, farmhouse kitchen and upstairs attic that accommodates a whirlwind of movement.

There are delightful and energetic performances too from Alison Fitzjohn as Mum and Tom Woodman as Dad. They manage to manipulate the animal puppets on top of everything else and to preserve an air of normality as the whole thing descends into chaos. It's absolutely wicked and not just for the children.


Review by Terry Grimley

Not content with staging a hugely successful production of Roald Dahl's story which has toured the country several times, Birmingham Stage Company has now gone back to basics with a new adaptation by David Wood.

Having seen the first version in its first run at the Old Rep I don't remember it being all that different. But it certainly comes up brightly polished here, with Dahl's typical over-the-top tale of a monstrous grandmother and her ingenious grandson given colourful staging and performances.

When George's demanding grandmother comes to stage on the family farm he finds himself waiting on her hand and foot, and gets the idea to boost her regular medicine, by adding every kind of household and farmyard substance that comes on hand.

The result is spectacular growth-spurt that has grannie's neck bursting through the roof, and some giant chickens running around the yard. It's Dahl at his most anarchic, and the children at the matinee I saw absolutely loved it.

It has a classic piece of theatrical magic when the grandmother grows through the roof before our eyes, and it has the usual BSC virtues of direct, committed storytelling. Clark Devlin is an engaging George and Erika Poole makes a credibly obnoxious Grandma, but I did miss the extra level of grotesqueness in the original production, when Neal Foster played the role in drag.

Verdict 4/5


Review By David Irwin

When it comes to top-quality children's productions, the Birmingham Stage Company has a first-class reputation

I was blown away by their stage-version of Skellig, when I went to see it last year - so I had high hopes for this Roald Dahl story.

As you'd expect from Dahl, the story is deliciously dark. Our hero is George - an affable boy who is horrified when his ghastly grandma comes to stay.

Treated like a slave, he's determined to get his own back and brews up a medicine (mostly from cleaning products).

Luckily there's a friendly reminder in the programme and at the end of the show that children's shouldn't try this at home.

When he feeds his fearsome relation the concoction, there are some rather unexpected results!

Where several films have tried and failed, this play succeeds in capturing Dahl. It's gruesome, funny, full of life and the action remains firmly on this side of the Atlantic.

Clark Devlin is great as the title character and you soon forget that it's an adult playing the part. But it's Erika Poole who steals the show as the horrible grandma. Or at least she would have done - even her great performance is eclipsed by the wonderful production values. I won't spoil it for you, but the sequence after the harridan has downed the medicine is fantastic.

If you're looking for a show to take the kids to over Christmas then you won't be disappointed with this one.


THE wonderfully weird imagination of Roald Dahl is wowing children and adults alike at the Old Rep in Birmingham.

George's Marvellous Medicine is the latest Dahl classic given a run out by the Birmingham Stage Company and again they retain the magic of the books.

The Old Rep is a hidden gem amongst the new developments of Birmingham and inside it has a wonderful intimate feel that makes a good performance even more special.

The Birmingham Stage Company has a history of Roald Dahl adaptations and again they have excelled in translating the gross but great nature of the great man's book's to stage.

Clark Devlin bounced around the stage as an energetic in a butter wouldn't melt in his mouth way and Tom Woodman played a great part as the daring to dream dad.

Needless to say the horrible old grandmother was the star of the show, played by Erika Poole, she was a disgusting and disturbing as in the brilliant book.

But for me the best character was the oversized Chicken, I've no idea why I found a grown man running around in a chicken suit so funny but I was rolling around with laughter.

The sheer brilliance of Roald Dahl's story was captured and in these days of health and safety and children never being allowed to do what they want George's Marvellous Medicine is a cracking antidote.

What better as a child as just throwing anything you can find in to a bucket and wondering what happens. Of course there was an announcement at the end warning the children not to do the same but somehow I doubt they had any of the crazy ingredients at home that George laid his hand on.


Review by Calvin Kier

Having spent my childhood engrossed in the imagination of Roald Dahl, I was keen to see if The Birmingham Stage Company’s adaptation of George’s Marvellous Medicine was a hit on stage.

The farm noises playing in the background on arrival at The Hexagon on Saturday caused much intrigue, not just for myself, but for the sea of children filling the theatre.

On stage I was excited by the clever staging of a cross section of a house, boldly exposing a kitchen and two bedrooms. Things were looking promising, as I could feel myself drifting down memory lane.

The fresh young talent displayed by Clark Devlin, playing George was clearly a strong asset to the production.

From the outset, he delivered with an endearing energy, quickly befriending the audience with his friendly banter and good humour.

Despite being a slightly older member of the audience (unaccompanied by an adult), my attention was lured into the journey of a bored young boy who finds excitement in concocting a magic medicine, with the hope of calming the cantankerous behaviour of his Grandmother.

The skilful use of music and lighting did not go unnoticed. It was a clever and entertaining means of clearly differentiating George’s thought sequences from the actual story plot. Appropriate for a young audience.

I had to chuckle to myself when Grandma’s alter-ego appeared on stage, busting some moves to contemporary disco classics. This was a personal reminder to the likes of myself that you are only as old as you feel.

I was impressed by Phil Clark’s ability and consideration to cater for all age groups, as he included a Benny Hill style melee to emphasise the chaotic chicken chase on stage. This was clearly a popular highlight with laughter rippling through the theatre.

I highly commend Jackie Trousdale for her wonderfully imaginative set design. It played an integral part in the production, clearly on an even keel with the cast, towards creating a beautiful vision that brings the written words of a legendary author to life.

In conclusion, a triumph for The Birmingham Stage Company. George’s Marvellous Medicine was thoroughly enjoyable from beginning to end, providing much loved family entertainment.


Review by Jennifer Shelton

As evenings at the theatre go, you’ll be hard-pushed to find anything more entertaining than a night in the company of George Kranky and his eccentric farmer family.

Giant rampaging chickens, a good dose of lavatorial humour and a hilariously grumpy grandma - what’s not to love?

For those new to Roald Dahl’s tale, George’s Marvellous Medicine follows the outrageous exploits of a young boy whose attempts to cure his grandmother of her terrible temper leads to all sorts of hilarious happenings.

Brought to us by the Birmingham Stage Company, this theatrical adaptation does a fantastic job of bringing the action to life and drawing the eager audience into George’s magical, mischievous world.

There are several delightful moments when, inviting the audience to help him mix his magic potion, George is heckled by enthusiastic cries of: “You forgot the boot polish!”.

And later, the anticipation of waiting for Grandma to drink her first dose proves too much for one theatre-goer, who gasps loudly: “Go on, drink it!”, for all to hear.

While the children – and I think I can vouch for the adults too – are clearly enjoying the show, the actors too take to their roles with great relish, helping to create the atmosphere of unbridled silliness and fun which makes this evening so successful.

For a dose of fabulous family fun, George’s Marvellous Medicine is just what the doctor ordered!


Review by Richard Ord

We may only have seen his spindly legs poking out in bright yellow tights, but for all his energy and bagging the biggest laughs of the night take a bow Jason O'Brien.

Forget David Tennant's Hamlet or Colin Firth's Bafta-winning movie performance in A Single Man, for the youngsters at this cracking show Jason O'Brien's Giant Chicken was a tour de force.

Okay, so all he had to do was charge around the stage in a chicken costume barging into people and flapping his wings, but he did it with panache – and certainly stole the show for my six-year-old son.

There's nothing kids like better than the weird, wonderful and at times the downright malicious to tickle their fancy.

And George's Marvellous Medicine had a ladle full of all.

This Roald Dahl tale may be pretty simple but in less skilful hands it could easily fail to translate onto the stage.

Fortunately with David Woods, a star in the field of children's drama, penning the adaptation we have a show that appeals on every level with the audience without losing any of the darker side of Dahl's story-telling. In fact, he fair revels in the sinister.

For those who don't know the story, George Kranky is a young boy enjoying his school hols at home on a farm with his mum and dad when Grandma comes to stay. Within minutes she reveals herself to be a crotchety old crone who appears hell bent on making life a misery for young George and his family. 

George, played by Lee Evans sound-alike Clark Devlin, decides he could make her change her ways by replacing her daily medicine with a concoction of his own … made with all sortsof pills, powders and liquids lying round the farmyard.

Devlin eggs on the audience and so the audience eggs him on to fill his potion pot with all and sundry until he has gallons of steaming goo.

On eating the Marvellous Medicine, Grandma (played by a suitably evil Erika Poole) grows as tall as a house. We see Grandma shoot out of her seat and through the roof of the Kranky home to the amazement of the audience. Hats off here to the effects wizards for that one.

George's dad, played by Tom Woodman, spots the potential in ridding the world of starvation by using the medicine to grow super big animals.

Cue giant chickens, bulls and much hilarity on the farmyard.

When the medicine runs out, George calls on the audience to help him remember the ingredients, but the new batch has a far different effect.

This version of a Dahl's classic fair whizzes along with plenty of audience participation and on-stage slapstick to keep the kids enthralled from start to finish.

And the impressive new Playhouse Whitley Bay stage and sound system makes for a great venue to host this kind of family friendly production.

A marvellous show with proves that laughter, and giant chickens, are the best medicine for the young 'uns.


By Anne Morley-Priestman

Children are much better at memorising passages from favourite books than adults. Take the long, long list of concoctions which go to make up George’s marvellous medicine in the Roald Dahl book of the same name, cleverly adapted for the stage by David Wood. When it comes to making up a fresh batch in the second act of Phil Clark’s production for the Birmingham Stage Company, the audience knows exactly which peculiar additive is missing. No wonder there’s a “don’t try this at home” warning at the end of the show and in the souvenir programme.

The farmhouse set by Jacqueline Trousdale has just the right mixture of realism and distortion and the special effects and puppetry are very well handled. Farmyard noises greet the audience as it arrives and there’s an obbligato of squelches and plops, cackles, grunts, bellows and snores as the action progresses; sound design is by Tom Lishman. Alison Fitzjohn and Tom Woodman are a thoroughly credible Mum and Dad and root the fantasy of George’s wish-fulfilment in down-to-earth reality with just a very subtle hint of caricature.

George was played by understudy [Jason O’Brien] at the performance I saw. He makes him a gangly baseball-capped youth with all the frustrations inherent in being a sub-teenager on a busy working farm. Enter Grandma (his mother’s widowed parent), and she’s the relation from hell as far as having her as an uninvited house-guest is concerned. Erika Poole has great fun with her nastiness as she demands her own way, drinks all Dad’s gin, tries to take over the house (including turfing George out of his own room) and really deserves all that she gets. Which, of course, is plenty.

Puppet master Roman Stefanski peoples the farmyard (and on occasion the house itself0 with a wondrous array of animals. There’s a ferocious bull, a whole roost of chickens (including one enormous one, much to the audience’s delight), piglets, a cow and at least one yapping dog. Grandma’s vertical growth is particularly well handled with arm as well as leg extensions, collapsed to child-size at the end. Not perhaps a model of what country living is all about but, as far as theatre for children and their accompanying adults is concerned, an example of how to engage an audience’s attention and keep it right to the end of the show. And beyond the theatre's doors.


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