As Georges Marvellous Medicine takes to the stage in Dubai later this month, we catch up with the show’s director, Phil Clark for some pre-performance chit chat about magically growing farm animals, crazy potions, imaginative little boys and roof-raising Grandmas
George’s Marvellous Medicine is a very visual show. An awful lot happens that is out of the ordinary. What are the challenges you face when staging a production like this?
George’s Marvellous Medicine tells the story of a young boy who goes around every room in his house pouring all the liquids and powders he can find into a saucepan, to make his Grandma a special new medicine. It’s hard enough creating an entire house on stage, but that’s only the beginning because the effects of his medicine are truly dramatic. Everything that drinks it grows three times in size, including all the farm animals that are fed the medicine and most importantly his Grandma, who grows 30 foot tall and crashes through the roof! So there’s plenty of amazing things that happen on stage and all of them are produced by special effects that have a wonderful effect on the audience!
All kids love Roald Dahl, even though a lot of his stories have quite dark moments. Why do you think he has such amazing universal appeal?
Dahl created fantastic stories which a lot of modern writers would be frightened to publish. He was a genius who knew that children recognize the difference between fantasy and reality and so he lets his imagination soar to wonderful heights, taking the reader on magical journeys in the company of truly brilliant characters. Grandma is definitely one of the greatest characters in Dahl’s wonderful world of extraordinary people.
How do you go about compressing the entire book into a stage show that’s short enough for kids to sit through?
Children are far more sophisticated than adults give them credit for. Our show is only 100 minutes long but children can easily concentrate for longer if the show is good enough. The reason adults think that children can’t concentrate is because we often give them such rubbish to watch in an ever decreasing circle of standards. Children love and appreciate complex and difficult stories so long as they are well presented.
We have to ask: Is there a danger that kids who have mean grannies will try to make them ‘special’ medicines after watching the show?
We’ve been producing George’s Marvellous Medicine since 1995 and so far as we know, no Granny has been hurt as a result of children watching the show - or reading the book! Children love to be allowed to be naughty as a fantasy, but they fully appreciate that reality and fantasy are two different things. I’ve heard from many children who have made their own medicine at home, but so far none of them have ever given it to Grandma!
Are there any funny stories you can tell us about staging this show?
I once spoke to Roald Dahl when I was 14. I rang him up to ask if he would let me interview him at my school. Unfortunately I asked to speak to Ronald Dahl and the voice at the other end said there was no-one there of that name. When told them I was sure Ronald Dahl lived at this address they again repeated no one called Ronald Dahl lived there. But they helpfully suggested there was a Roald Dahl I might like to talk to. When I agreed, the voice said “speaking!”. So I asked if he would let me interview him but he replied he was far too old and grumpy to be interviewed by a young man like me - but he wished me luck - and that luck seems to have worked its special Dahl magic for more than 30 years!
What other Roald Dahl productions have your worked on, and can you tell us about them?
The Birmingham Stage Company has produced more stories by Roald Dahl than any other company in the world, including Fantastic Mr Fox, The BFG, The Witches and our current UK tour of James and the Giant Peach. Fantastic Mr Fox was our first ever Christmas show back in 1992 and it started us on a wonderful journey in the company of the one of the greatest writers in British history.
George’s Marvellous Medicine will be performed at the Centrepoint Theatre, Ductac, Mall of the Emirates from May27 to June 1. Dhs120-170 per person, and there are special rates available for schools. Tickets are available at the Ductac booking office (04 341 4777) and on www.timeouttickets.com. For school bookings, email Art For All; email@example.com (050 5522838).