David Walliams’ Demon Dentist, directed and adapted by Neal Foster of the Birmingham Stage Company (also responsible for the Horrible Histories shows), follows on from the highly successful and Olivier Award-nominated Gangsta Granny and Billionaire Boy.
Walliams possesses a remarkable ability to craft exceptional modern stories for children that seamlessly connect generations, introducing repulsive fantastical characters, while addressing the plight of neglected or disadvantaged children with a similar style to Roald Dahl’s stories.
Demon Dentist is billed as a great family show suitable for all ages; for context, my family consisted of myself, Dad, 4 year old daughter and 9 year old son, who is autistic. While I’ve never read the book myself, my son has and loved it, so he was looking forward to it. My daughter is too young for the books but loves Gangsta Granny so we thought she would like it too.
“Demon Dentist” centers around a young boy named Alfie, played brilliantly by Sam Varley, who also possesses an exceptional singing voice. Alfie takes care of his ailing father, James Mitchell, since his mother’s demise. Six years prior, Alfie had a traumatising dental experience, which has made him scared of dentists. The family is paid a visit by Winnie, an energetic social worker portrayed splendidly by Misha Malcolm, who attempts to persuade Alfie to visit the local dentist.
In Alfie’s town, peculiar events are unfolding, with kids leaving their teeth for the tooth fairy and waking up to find alarming things beneath their pillows. The situation takes a turn for the worse when the headteacher invites Miss Root, an utterly dreadful and petrifying dentist, to give a talk on dental hygiene at the school. Emily Harrigan deserves credit for her outstanding portrayal of the ice queen. From there, the real adventure commences, with Alfie and his friend Gabz, brilliantly played by Georgia Grant-Anderson, determined to uncover the mystery.
Jacqueline Trousdale’s ingenious set design for the show was what I was most impressed with. It features brick walls and arches that transform seamlessly into various locations, including Alfie’s residence, the nearby school, Raj’s shop, and a stunning underground witch’s trove in the final scenes. Jason Taylor’s superb lighting design complements the setting beautifully. We loved seeing the mopeds on stage (very carefully driven and manouvered by the cast I must say), to a train entering the stage. The set changes made the performance flow smoothly!
The plot of this tale moves quickly and is exceedingly nonsensical, filled with plenty of potty humor, lively musical numbers, theatrical chases, and exaggerated comedic characters. Amidst the madness, there are touching and heartwarming scenes between Alfie and his father, as well as a great deal of humor derived from Alfie’s “not my girlfriend” dynamic with Gabz.
The cast wasn’t huge so it was easy enough to keep up with, which I always find beneficial in children’s theatre. Both my children found the storyline easy to follow, albeit it was a bit quick towards the end; it did seem to go from fast paced excitement to a conclusion very rapidly, but this didn’t lessen the show overall.
We had a fabulous time at the Liverpool Empire watching Demon Dentist.
The recommended age is 11+ but use parental discretion if you want to bring younger kids.
Demon Dentist is touring the UK and you can buy tickets here .