Famed theatre director, author and playwright David Wood is getting ready to bring magic and mayhem to the UAE this month with his adaptation of Roald Dahl’s George’s Marvellous Medicine. The show, which runs at Ductac from November 13-17, centres on George and his efforts to make his cantankerous grandmother ‘better’.
Wood, who was awarded an OBE in 2004 for his contribution to Children’s Theatre and Literature, has written more than 60 plays in his 50-odd year career. The 73-year-old, whose stage credits include Aladdin, The Gingerbread Man and The Twits, talks about the tricks and treats he has in store for his Dubai audience in an email interview with Gulf News tabloid!.
What can Dubai expect from the show?
Dubai can expect to see one of Dahl’s most powerful stories faithfully translated to the stage, with magic, colour, puppetry, music, humour and lots of joyous audience participation.
You have said, ‘I often try to incorporate elements of magic and illusion’. Will we see magic in George’s Marvellous Medicine too?
There is indeed magic in the play, part of the exciting theatrical magic that makes up this Birmingham Stage Company production. Animals grow and shrink. Legs and necks stretch, and Grandmother magically grows to such an extent that she bursts through the roof. The creation of George’s marvellous medicine leads to magical transformations and hilarity for the audience. The magic in the story is faithfully recreated on stage.
What draws you to Roald Dahl’s tales? Why do you think they work so well on stage?
I have now adapted eight Roald Dahl stories for the stage. I much admire the way his stories empower the young protagonists, with whom, of course, the young audience/reader identifies. These remarkable young heroes and heroines have all the odds stacked against them, but manage to succeed. Sophie helps the BFG save the children of the world, as does the Boy in The Witches ... Dahl emotionally involves his audience. Also, Dahl writes wonderful baddies, who are dreadful yet comic. Dahl knows that children like animals and food — these become staple ingredients in his stories. And I particularly like the fact that his stories usually start ‘real’ and then fantasy develops from the reality. Dahl’s stories are not always easy to take from page to stage, but when they work, they really do work well. Birmingham Stage Company invited me to adapt George’s Marvellous Medicine, and I was delighted to do so.
As we get further into a digital age with shortening attention spans, have you had to evolve storytelling to keep it more relatable, relevant and attention grabbing?
Quite honestly, I haven’t noticed much difference in the reactions of children to theatre performances. And I have been doing it for 50 years. The secret is, of course, to involve the children and not to bore them.
How does theatre beat film as a mode of storytelling?
A live theatre experience always has more immediacy and a sense of anticipation than something on a screen.
What were the challenges of putting together this play?
My job as adaptor is to tell the story, but I must also think about how the play will be staged. With George’s Marvellous Medicine I felt I needed to add a bit of ‘back story’, to show how Grandmother comes to live with the family. So my play starts earlier than the book. I set several challenges for the director and the designer, plus puppetry and magical challenges, all of which have been met extremely well, I believe, in this production.
What’s next for you?
I am working on The Tiger Who Came To Tea again, directing it for Christmas. I have a new adaptation ready, based on Michelle Magorian’s book Back Home. I hope very much this will get a production soon.
Don’t miss it!
Tickets to George’s Marvellous Medicine, which runs at Ductac from November 13-17, are Dh150.