By: Suzanne Cleave, TRP Reviewer
David Walliams’ books have become a staple on most children’s bookshelves. Full of brilliant characters, fun, adventure and mischief, it’s not surprising they have been transformed for the stage and screen.
Demon Dentist, a firm favourite in our household, has been adapted by the Birmingham Stage Company, which, this year, celebrates its 30th anniversary.
It tells the story of young Alfie (played marvellously by Sam Varley), who lives with his dad (James Mitchell). His dad is not in the best of health after years of working in the coal mines and since the death of his mum, Alfie has also taken on the role of his carer.
Six years ago, Alfie had a terrible experience at the dentist which resulted in a massive fear of having his gnashers checked. The reminder letters are piling up on top of the fridge and he has no intention of going back for more.
The family’s social worker Winnie (Misha Malcolm) has other ideas, and sets about booking Alfie an appointment with the new dentist in town – Miss Root.
However, things are not as they seem. Children have been leaving their teeth under their pillows for the tooth fairy and instead of waking up to a pound coin they discover squashed spiders and dead mice, amongst other disgusting things.
Things get even more suspicious when Alfie’s headteacher invites Miss Root into an assembly but instead of offering tips on oral hygiene, she plies the children with sweets.
Alfie knows something isn’t right and he is determined to get to the bottom of things, with a little bit of help from Gabz (Georgia Grant-Anderson), who is definitely not his girlfriend!
Along the way, we are introduced to some other characters who all add their own bit of humour. In particular, shopkeeper Raj (Zain Abrahams), who tries to sell an array of out of date and perished goods at a knock down price. There’s also PC Plank (Ben Eagle), who will never win an award for his policing skills and not forgetting Winnie, whose experience with a bag of coffee Revels went down particularly well with younger (and some older) members of the audience!
As with the majority of Walliams’ stories, there are some touching moments, such as the close relationship between Alfie and his dad, and the sacrifice he pays for his son.
Special mention must go to Emily Harrigan who superbly plays Miss Root. She is glamourous and terrifying in equal measure, a real James Bond-esque baddie, armed with her vicious cat, Fang.
While some children may find some of the darker scenes a bit scary (there were a few gasps and screams coming from our row), it is a real feel-good family production, and one which will make you brush your teeth that little bit longer after watching it!