Review by Bridget Conway
George’s Marvellous Medicine at the King Street Theatre, in co-production with Epicentre Theatre Company, is one of three Roald Dahl shows currently playing in Sydney, along with the musical Matilda and Revolting Rhymes & Dirty Beasts. With such a heavy line-up of big theatres producing stories inspired by Dahl, the competition for an audience is high. Yet, with grace and flair, the adapted co-production of George’s Marvellous Medicine lights up the stage and is a worthy delight for both young and old audiences.
The show has completely sold out its 10-day long season, but I had the chance to head along to one of the evening shows. Although the crowd wasn’t as rowdy as I expect the 10am Saturday shows would be, it was still a joy to sit in a crowd of young kids and watch as they interacted with the performers with glee.
Adapted for the stage by David Wood is this truly marvelous Dahl story, one in which I had actually never heard of despite being an avid Dahl fan as a child (and as an adult). George’s Marvellous Medicine was first published in 1981, and follows a young boy, George Kranky (Alex Wickett), as he attempts to turn his grumpy old Grandmother (Jeannie Gee) into a nice and kind Grandmother. George lives on his parent’s farm and was looking forward to spending his school holiday reading and relaxing, but the arrival of his Grandmother turns all of that upside down. We follow George as he decides to conjure up a strong medicine (made entirely of household items such as toothpaste, curry powder, floor polish and much, much more) for his Granny, which ends up making her incredibly tall but still just as nasty. A chicken on the farm also drinks the brew, and turns into a Giant Chicken (George Mulis) that begins to terrorise the house. George’s mother Mary (Sarah Purdue) and father Killy (Jaymie Knight) soon discover what George has done; Mary faints and Killy hatches a plan to remake the medicine so that they can have a farm full of large animals which he believes will make them rich and famous.
Alas, with every moral story and especially a Roald Dahl story, this plan soon goes downhill. In the second half of George’s Marvellous Medicine, George attempts to remake the medicine with the help of the audience (the kids shout at George and tell him what ingredients he did and didn’t use before). The result is a medicine that makes both the chicken and George’s Grandmother get so small that they disappear into thin air. The audience is left, then, with the Kranky family relieved that Grandma is now gone and out of their hair and with a few less chickens to their name.
It was incredibly entertaining to be a part of such a young audience and to watch them interact with the story in real-time. This sort of playfulness and open-minded fun is limited only to kids these days, but when I experience it in fleeting moments like I did the other night, it really makes me reminiscence on what my childhood was like and how much I miss being able to express myself as freely as children do. However, I got the chance to interact with George’s Marvellous Medicine, and I had a grand old time doing so.
George’s Marvellous Medicine is on at King Street Theatre, Sydney from 24th September – 3rd October 2015