denist chair

Sam Varley as Alfie, letting Fang the cat go to his head. with Emily Harrigan as Miss Root, Georgia Grant-Anderson as Gabz and Misha Malcolm as Winnie

Demon Dentist

The Alexandra Theatres


Dentists! I must admit that I am not really a fan, in fact I’m probably among the 99.9 per cent of the population who see a visit to the dentist as a journey to a temple of doom.

The joy of being told everything is fine, see you again in six months is like a reprieve from the gallows, which is something old Alfie Griffith didn’t get after his visit to (scary music and perhaps a few splashes of blood) Miss Root.

Gums, as we should now perhaps call him, along with his girlfriend, who is not a girlfriend but a friend who happens to be a girl (oh, yeh, like we believe that) suspect Miss Root is . . . well a demon dentist.

It's a suspicion which is growing, especially when children put extracted teeth under the pillows for the tooth fairy expecting to find a shiny coin in its place in the morning but instead find a bat's wing, or a dead mouse or . . . an eyeball

So, away we go on the latest adventure from Birmingham Stage Company which has cornered the market in adaptations of David Walliams quirky novels, which, in turn, are a bit gruesome, include a few bodily functions as well as some uggh how horrid moments along with child heroes and bizarre characters – just the sort of things to appeal to children.

Twelve-year-old Alfie, played with bags of confidence by Sam Varley, has avoided dentists for six years, something he has got away with by the fact he looks after his wheelchair-bound father who is an ex-miner with debilitating pneumoconiosis – black lung disease.

Varley gives us just the right amount of panic and anxiety for a 12-year-old, along with a clear speaking and singing voice. He was my grandson’s favourite.

Dad, played by James Mitchell, a product of Birmingham School of Acting, mixed humour and pathos in a fine performance, while Georgia Grant-Anderson was a bolshie Gabz who is Alfie’s girlfriend who is not a girlfriend etc.

She has just the right amount of dismissive annoyance for a girlfriend who it is claimed is not a girlfriend but really is a girl friend and not a . . . you get the idea, se we'll leave it there.

Then there is the wind assisted social worker Winnie, who it seems would like to be paid in chocolate biscuits, played by Misha Malcolm. She has some great fun moments with Alfie, his noooo to her pleas for chocolate being a highlight, and the Revels coffee collection and their unfortunate if enthusiastic gastric reaction was another source of laughs - with an enthusiastic audience needing no encouragement to join in.

 She also, for a short moment, gave us a glimpse of what sounded like a great singing voice.


Alfie, Gabz and the soon to be late Miss Root as the cavalry arrives in the shape of James Mitchell as Dad in his train . . . don't ask.

Zain Abrahams makes a special offer as Raj, the newsagent who has more special offers than actual stock in his shop, special offer shops being a specialty of Walliams’ tales. It’s a fun performance and a chance to pick up a pack of sat on crisps going cheap!

Meanwhile Ben Eagle is the shows’ equivalent of man of a thousand faces Lon Chaney, popping up as ancient dentist Mr Earstwhile, a headmaster and PC Plank (as in thick as two short) as well as a vicar

And then there is Miss Root – the tooth fairy from hell, played with a deliciously seductive mix of OTT fun and evil by Emily Harrigan, who seemed to be enjoying herself immensely as the town’s new dentist after the now late Mr Earstwhile’s remarkably grisly, blood everywhere, little accident, an unfortunate incident related with unbridled gory glee by Miss Root. It is a wonderful performance - as long as you keep your mouth closed when you are near her . . .

It is also nice to see Blofeld’s cat from James Band movies has managed to find work again as Fang, Miss Root’s feline companion in her surgery, just to give that extra soupcon of evil charm about the place.

So we are left with Alfie and Gabz fighting the evil Miss Root on her laughing gas propelled rocket, aided by gasping for breath dad and member of the Hell’s Angel’s Social Worker’s chapter on her scooter Winnie, battling it out down the bottom of an abandoned coalmine in a cathedral of teeth. Follow that all right?

So that's the plot dealt with so let’s just say it is all great fun and moves at a cracking pace thanks to a brilliant set from Jaqueline Trousdale.

Birmingham Stage have got the David Walliams’ sets off pat. A collection of three and four sided blocks that roll into position to create, in this case, a school, a mine, a mineshaft, Alfie’s home, his bedroom, Raj’s shop, police station, dentist’s surgery, all with a push or a twirl along with a stunning mine shaft cathedral backdrop

And all the excitement is generated with lighting, from Jason Taylor, and Nick Sagar’s sound using minimal special effects – relying on the best special effects of all, a child’s imagination.

It’s a fun, family show for all ages. My grandsons, aged eight and 12, loved it and there is enough in the show to keep parents and grandparents equally entertained from start to finish.

I must admit though, there was a delicious irony about the production with the large quantity of sweets you could hear many children in the audience rustling their way through. Sweets being chomped, all while watching a show about . . . dentists. Almost a job creation scheme.

Adapted and directed once again by Neal Foster, you can make appointments with this dentist to 01-07-23.

Roger Clarke


Index page Alex Reviews A-Z Reviews by Theatre