David Wood's Dahl Drama Is Right Medicine For Children
The magic of Roald Dahl will come to life in Cardiff next week as a stage version of George’s Marvellous Medicine adapted by leading children’s dramatist David Wood, takes to the stage of The New Theatre.
First published in 1981, George’s Marvellous Medicine tells the story of a young boy who makes a marvellous new medicine to cure his grandmother of her terrifying temper. But when his grandmother drinks his special new potion the results are explosive and the most incredible things begin to happen.
“The story transfers well to the stage”, David Wood tells Andy Howells, “the medicine is magic and there’s a lot of scaling things. Dahl is great at changing the scale, in Georges Marvellous Medicine there are big animals and suddenly when there’s another version of the medicine made, everything shrinks, so you get very small things.”
David has dramatised several of Dahl’s stories for the stage already including James & The Giant Peach and The BFG and has great affection for Dahl’s story of George, “The audience get involved with it as they help him mix the medicine and call out ingredients,” he says, “its great fun.”
David began writing while studying at Oxford University in the 1960s. Although showing a strong talent as a magician, he also became an actor and was cast opposite Malcolm McDowell in the 1968 Lindsay Anderson film If...
He then moved into Rep at The Swan Theatre, Worcester, where his writing skills were called upon one Christmas. “They asked if I’d write the Christmas Play and that was 49 years ago,” laughs David, “I wrote the first one, a version of The Tinder Box. I never saw it, as I was in a pantomime giving my Wishee Washee at Watford, but it did well enough for them to ask me to do a second one. Edward Lear’s Owl and The Pussycat was the big one, it managed to get to London the following year, it got good reviews and suddenly every rep company in the country seemed to be doing it.”
David’s success as a dramatist continued and in 1979, he also formed his own company, Whirligig Theatre, to take children’s plays into mainstream theatres. “We managed to convince people what we were doing was important,” says David, “Children deserve to have theatre created especially for them.” David continued to tour with Whirligig for the following 25 years and regards that work as the most important he has ever done.
Although he slowed down acting in the 1990s, he has continued to dramatise children’s plays. These now total over seventy and include adaptations of Michelle Magorian’s Goodnight Mister Tom and Judith Kerr’s The Tiger Who Came to Tea as well as his own musical The Gingerbread Man.
In 2004, David was awarded the OBE for services to drama and literature and is still a strong ambassador for children’s theatre. “What is more exciting for me is that there are lots of young people coming into the profession now,” he says, “Whether they are actors, composers, designers or directors they actually want to do children’s theatre as a profession rather than a rung on the ladder. It’s arguably the most difficult job anyone will ever do. It really is a very tough job, but a very rewarding one if you get it right. There's nothing like the electricity of a house full of children responding positively.”
- George’s Marvellous Medicine which features Ed Thorpe in the title role and Debra Vale is at the New Theatre from October 25 –29. For further details about the show or to book tickets visit www.newtheatrecardiff.co.uk or call the Box Office on (029) 2087 8889.