Theatre review: George’s Marvellous Medicine, Manchester Opera House

Having seen ‘George’s Marvellous Medicine’ at Manchester’s Opera House tonight I completely blame Roald Dahl for my generation being complete sociopaths. If it isn’t a boy poisoning his wicked grandmother with bleach to make her explode, it’s a mad man throwing spoilt brats down rubbish chutes to be incinerated or abused children gaining psychokinetic powers to punish their tormentors. (That last one is Matilda, not Carrie, for clarification). I’d completely forgotten how malicious and masochistic this child was. Sure your grandmother is terrible but isn’t killing her a little extreme? George has issues …but I’m living for it.

If you haven’t read Dahl’s classic book,I’ll give you the plot in a nutshell. George’s beastly grandmother comes to stay and instead of dosing out her prescribed medication, George makes a new medicine with any old (definitely harmful) substances he can find around his farm-house – which includes but is not limited to toilet cleaner, nail varnish, shoe polish and anti-freeze. However, when George gives her a dose of the deadly concoction, her physical form takes on a drastic change making her massive, but still just as awful. The medicine is also taken by numerous farm animals resulting in them swelling in size too, which George’s father takes the capitalistic approach towards, asking George to duplicate the medicine so he can profit from it which ultimately ends with SPOILER ALERT grandma’s death. Nobody feels sad about it though because she was a monster. 

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As a stage production I wasn’t sure how ‘George’s Marvellous Medicine’ was going to work with the fantastical occurrences that happen throughout the story, but with the use of a chicken suit and a hydraulic lift, it worked spectacularly and the show was incredible! It was genuinely fantastic and memorably entertaining for everyone watching. Most of the show had myself, my grandmother, my aunt and my young cousin roaring in laughter. Four generations of my family howling in laughter at an old lady twerking… Could you possibly want anything more from a night at the theatre?

The humour was there; the wit was there; the timing was perfect; the staging was perfect. I commend the character designer massively because after literally 30 seconds I was completely with George on wanting to murder his grandmother. She was truly ghastly and Deborah Vale played her exceptionally! She’s like the tormenting busy body you see on every episode of Midsomer Murders that you can’t wait to get bumped off. Tremendous! Also when the second act started she’d grown a pair of comically long fake arms which I literally could not stop laughing at every single time I looked at them. I think those fake arms were my favourite part of the entire show, waving about like nobody’s business – amazing! They were my MVP.

George's Marvellous Medicine - Manchester Opera House

Ed Thorpe played George, our favourite toxicologist, and he played him wonderfully too! I also would like to mention that I loved how he spoke in verse for a lot of the show. I love it. I love it all!

Tessa Vale and Richard Mullins were George’s parents and were absolutely delightful. I take my hat off to Richard during his daydream speech which gave the audience a scene from the House of Commons and Vatican City which had me howling with laughter! The three actors worked amazingly as a family together. The way they got over George stepping on Grandmother at the end as a family unit was truly heart-warming to see too… “She was horrible to have around anyway. Let’s have tea!”

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There was also a giant chicken, which I know sounds odd for a stage production, but it was important to the story. Great chickening skills there! … Oh! And a little girl who was on stage for literally about 10 seconds and I almost peed laughing. I’d go see the show again just for her and the wig she was wearing. I loved everyone! 10 out of 10 for casting! Hats off to you all!

If you’re looking for an evening of entertainment, magic and laughs for your entire family, I urge you to see ‘George’s Marvellous Medicine’. This rib-tickling tale of perverted justice translates exceptionally well to the stage and is one of the best shows I’ve seen in a while, which is saying a lot for me because I love me some musicals and there wasn’t a single song in this! I honestly cannot recommend this show with any more vigour. I’m still so happy hours later! It was a delight and an absolute pleasure to see. I’ve definitely won the best grandson, nephew and cousin awards this year!

Tickets, times and future venues for George’s Marvellous Medicine are available from the ATG website.