Thursday, December 8

Demon Dentist – Hull New Theatre

My second trip to the dentist in one week saw me at the Hull New Theatre on Wednesday evening, when Demon Dentist came to town.

Thank goodness my first visit was a much less scary experience – nothing like the evil tooth-puller let loose on the stage in this adaptation of David Walliams’ book.

The dental monster, the aptly-named Miss Root (Emily Harrigan), is the stuff of nightmares, especially for 12-year-old Alfie (Sam Varley), whose bad dental experience six years earlier had put him off dentists for life.

However, strange things had been happening in the town where Alfie lives with his loving dad (James Mitchell), which had drawn the schoolboy back into the world of teeth, or lack thereof in some cases.

Children who had lost a tooth and had placed it under their pillow ready for the Tooth Fairy to collect had discovered horrid things there in the morning, instead of a shiny £1 coin.

A dog’s tail, a squashed frog are just two of the disgusting finds, and it’s up to Alfie and his “she’s not my girlfriend” Gabz (Georgia Grant-Anderson) to unmask the culprit.

Of course, we in the not very full theatre sussed out the evil-doer from the moment she appeared on the stage as Alfie’s new school dentist. After handing out her own brand of toothpaste (which rotted concrete), a “soft’ toothbrush (made of steel) and sweets to rot any youngster’s teeth, Alfie, too, twigged on Miss Root meant the schoolchildren’s teeth harm.

What followed was a story that would put any youngster off ever visiting the dentist again – especially after what happens to Alfie’s choppers.

The very clever stage setting seamlessly alternated between the school, Alfie’s home, the local shop run by Raj (Zain Abrahams) and the mine where Alfie’s dad used to work in a job that left him wheelchair-bound and hardly able to breathe.

The first half of the show didn’t elicit much response from the audience, mainly children, and it was quite a subdued atmosphere.

Things livened up in the second half with the arrival of Raj and Alfie’s dad’s social worker, Winnie (Misha Malcolm), whose actions had the watching youngsters in fits of giggles.

Add PC Plank (Ben Eagle) into the mix and it was action all the way. Winnie drove a moped, Miss Root careered around on what looked suspiciously like a motorised oxygen cylinder and Alfie’s dad drove a huge train – all amazing to watch.

The Demon Witch was eventually uncovered but be warned – one character loses all their teeth while another pops their clogs.

I can’t fault anyone’s performance on the night (all had clear, loud voices – Varley had a lovely singing voice, too) and the stage setting, lighting, sound and music were all more than satisfactory.

But a sense of excitement and suspense never quite materialised during the production and there wasn’t the happy chatter one usually hears from audience members upon leaving a theatre.

I think maybe this is one of David Walliams’ stories that should have been left on the page, not brought to the stage.

Running until Saturday, November 12th, 2022; 6.30pm nightly with extra performances at 1.30pm

on Thursday 10th, 10.30am on Friday 11th and 2.30pm on Saturday 19th. Tickets from £18.50. Call (01482) 300306 or visit www.hulltheatres.co.uk

Reviewer: Jackie Foottit

Reviewed: 9th November 2022

North West End UK Rating: ★★★

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