Sunday, September 24

Demon Dentist – The Alexandra Birmingham

Neal Foster sustains his formidable reputation as the doyen of commercial children’s theatre with a production of David Walliams’ “Demon Dentist” which fizzes and pops with buoyant joy and good humour. Tearing children from their screens is a huge ask these days, but within seconds of the play starting hundreds of children surrounding me were entranced by the sheer energy, vitality and strength of the show.

There’s a naughty tooth thief about the unspecified Northern town, stealing various teeth from under the very pillows of unsuspecting children and replacing them with gross and surprising objects. Who is it? What are they doing and why? Alfie and Gabz set out to find out.

A company of commanding performances prove the play’s true strength. Sam Valley as Alfie captures the angst of youth adeptly and forms a truly beautiful relationship with Georgia Grand-Anderson as his friend, Gabz. Their chemistry is palpable, and both are exceptionally watchable. James Mitchell as Dad provides a strong dramatic core to the madness around him giving the part integrity and truth. Emily Harrigan as the Tooth Witch herself, Miss Root, gargles and spits out a bravura performance of venomous dentistry coupled with a stonking rock voice – clearly achieved from years of diligent mouth washing. Winnie is the friendly social worker played by Misha Malcolm with a deft sense of comedy. The company is completed by Zain Abraham as the dappily endearing, Raj, a shop owner with dubious business practises and a more than eccentric demeanour and Ben Eagle as PC Plonk, the avuncular authority figure. Aaron Patel and Mia Overfield complete the cast – all of whom are joy to watch throughout and have a very strong sense of comedy.

The writing is tight, the songs fun and Jacqueline Trousdale’s sets and costumes are pitch perfect for children’s theatre – broad, brash and primarily-coloured without veering into pantomime. And pantomime is what this play clearly and adroitly avoids. There is great comedy without being indulgent or referential, the performances are broad without being parodies, the participation is subtly winkled from the audience without being demanded. And all the humour arises from the character and story without being imposed upon it.

The Birmingham Stage Company have been producing quality children’s theatre for years and have clearly honed their act to precision with “Demon Dentist”. It’s fun, joyful, delightful, endearing and eminently watchable for all ages. The two youngsters I took along had a wail of a time and we all left with huge, toothy smiles!

Until 1st July,

Reviewer: Peter Kinnock

Reviewed: 29th June 2023

North West End UK Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.