The world premiere of David Walliams’ Demon Dentist came to The Alhambra where Leo Owen caught the show

With more Roald Dahl adaptations than any other theatre company, it’s no wonder Birmingham Stage Company have started tackling David Walliams’ books, many of which are strikingly similar in style and dark humour. Having received Olivier Award nominations for Gangsta Granny and Billionaire Boy, Demon Dentist now comes to the stage, hoping to emulate this previous success.

Central protagonist, Alfie (Sam Varley), hasn’t seen a dentist for six years after a bungled procedure resulted in the removal of the wrong tooth. Scarred by the experience, he’s understandably wary of dentists, despite his teeth rotting. When the tooth fairy starts leaving dead animals and manky body parts, instead of cash, and a new dentist comes to town, Alfie teams up with his chum, Gabz (Georgia Grant-Anderson), to investigate.

Aside from his lead, Walliams’ supporting characters are larger than life caricatures. Gabz is a brainiac know-it-all, Winnie (Misha Malcolm) a pushy heart of gold social worker and Miss Root (Emily Harrigan) the town’s new villainous dentist. Fans of Walliams’ books will already know Raj (Zain Abrahams) who appears in many of his stories as the well-meaning but slightly disgusting local newsagent. Alfie’s father is the only exception who’s slightly more fleshed out as the single parent ex-pit worker left in a wheelchair with contaminated lungs.

Neal Foster (unsurprisingly responsible too for the Horrible Histories shows) ably adapts and directs Walliams’ novel, writing original songs for the show that advance the story and are performed well by the unanimously strong cast. He remains true to Walliams’ trademark mayhem with a moped on the loose in Alfie’s school but there are sentimental heartfelt scenes too. A failure to convincingly develop the bond between Winnie and Alfie is his only oversight.

Jacqueline Trousdale’s design is simple but effective, utilising props, rather than huge set changes. Especially nice touches come in the form of the animatronic villain’s cat and Miss Root’s surgery on the corner of Drill Drive and Plaque Place.

With audience participation, slapstick exchanges and plenty of toilet jokes, Demon Dentist certainly lives up to previous Walliams’ adaptations. Reminiscent of a pantomime with smiles all round, it’s definitely a fun night out for all the family but could cause some patient no shows for dentists nationwide.

Demon Dentist shows at The Alhambra 8th-11th June before continuing its UK tour: