THE generation gap was well and truly on view among the audience watching this world premiere of Birmingham Stage Company’s latest stage adaptation of a David Walliams novel.
For the moment, Walliams seems to have usurped Roald Dahl’s position as the go-to author when it comes to bringing popular childrens books to the stage. After great success with Gangsta Granny and Billionaire Boy Birmingham Stage Company, with adaptor, lyricist and director Neal Foster leading the way, have this time chosen a story with more grotesque and surreal comedy elements than its predecessors. Add these to a dollymixture bag of broad comedy, including one or two risqué moments, adventure, mystery and thrills and you have a very distinctive theatrical cocktail.
It’s a combination that goes down well with younger members of the audience, and they far the outnumbered others in the theatre, probably leaving some of the mothers, fathers, aunts and uncles working hard to keep up with the elements in the story that triggered such big responses from their younger charges – and grandparents left even further behind.
With 30 years’ experience of producing shows for a younger audience, this company knows exactly how far to push any element in the story, and had there been a palpable hit or two in composer Jak Poore’s accompanying music, they would have real hit on their hands.
We start off with a reminder of the fairy tale of the Tooth Fairy who replaces a milk tooth left under the pillow with a coin. Keeping up with inflation, the sum of £1 was mentioned as a suitable amount. Alas, instead of money nasties are discovered left by the Tooth Witch, AKA as school dentist Miss Root (played and sung in flamboyant style by Emily Harrigan). Decidedly not an advert for the dental profession, if she gets you into her chair, you will be lucky to escape with even one tooth in your head.
Leading the battle against the evil Miss Root is Sam Varley’s heroic schoolboy Alfie. With the help of lovable local newsagent Raj (Zain Abrahams) his enthusiastic care-worker Winnie (Misha Malcom), and living up to his name receiving no help from Ben Eagle’s PC Plank.
Together they save Alfie’s girl-who-is-a-friend, Gabz (Georgia Grant-Anderson), and bring hope for the future to Alfie’s depressed invalid father, James Mitchell … and destroy the wicked Miss Root.
Before they achieve this happy ending Alfie loses all his teeth painfully extracted by the wicked tooth fairy, replaced by Raj’s dead wife’s dentures, and after a series of adventures battle for their lives in a disused coal mine.
Demon Dentist returns to the West Country from 18th to 21st May at the Northcott, Exeter, and from 5th to 8th July at Plymouth’s Theatre Royal.