Playing at the Cambridge Theatre until 17 December 2023
Children’s author Roald Dahl has had many of his books brought to life on screen and stage over the years. Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator, The BFG, The Witches, and of course Matilda. The book was turned into a well-loved film in the mid-nineties and this year will mark the tenth anniversary of Matilda The Musical playing in the West End. A movie version of the musical is said to be in the works with Netflix (who have recently acquired the rights to Dahl’s entire back catalogue of works).
Telling the story of a young girl, Matilda – a frightfully intelligent bookworm, who takes solace in the library, losing herself in the world of stories in order to escape the real-life she is living. You see, whilst Matilda is the perfect child, her parents are not. They do not understand her intelligence and so ignore her existence. Mrs Phelps, the librarian, is somewhat of a mother figure to Matilda, listening to the stories she makes up and allowing her to embrace the world of literature. When Matilda starts to go to school, her teacher Miss Honey quickly realises her exceptional talent and nurtures her development as best she can – until headmistress Miss Trunchbull comes along at least. But she has met her match with Matilda who uses her special powers of telekinesis to mess with the evil headteacher and put a few wrongs right.
Whilst some stage shows lose relevance and appeal over the years, Matilda the Musical is as fresh and exciting as it was when it first opened. From the moment you walk into the theatre you are immersed in the world of the little girl, with blackboards around the foyer with childrens writing on them and a set design make up of lettered building blocks all around the stage. The whole experience is magical. The choreography is incredible, not just the dancing but the general movement is almost like a ballet. Even the lighting in the show is exquisite and colourful and it is one of the most cleverly thought out production in the West End.
Tim Minchin‘s comedy songs are brilliant. From the opening number ‘Miracle’ through to the hilarious ‘The Hammer’ and ‘Loud’ to the act one finale ‘Bruce’ – every song is created perfectly. Act two begins with the fantastic ‘Telly’ and ‘When I Grow Up’ uses playground swings to bring it to life.
I have to say, I think Elliot Harper is the best Miss Trunchbull I have ever seen play the role. Whilst it is a brilliantly written character anyway, his portrayal had an extra layer of panto dame (in the best way) and evil, calculating spinster and was a joy to watch. Another great part is Mrs Wormwood and Annette McLaughlin does the role justice, getting some of the biggest laughs in the show. Carly Thoms plays the sweet and nervously caring teacher Miss Honey with a real love for the character and Landi Oshinowo is wonderful as Mrs Phelps.
The performance I saw just happened to be this set of children’s first-ever show in front of an audience and if they hadn’t said so before the show began, I would never have guessed. Shows like Matilda really show the quality of child performers that are out there and their ability and professionalism at such a young age is to be applauded.
If you’ve not seen Matilda the Musical then I urge you to go and if you have been before then maybe it’s time to go and see it again!
Reviewed by West End Wilma (2021)