Is there anyone who would to not having loved Roald Dahl stories when they were little? Who didn’t love being transported to worlds full of magic and nonsense where it appeared that children could be in charge and do anything they wanted? Two of Roald Dahl’s wonderful stories have made the leap from the page to the West End stage as big musical hits; Charlie and the chocolate factory and, of course, Matilda.
Playing in the Cambridge theatre in the heart of theatre land, Matilda tells the story of young girl with an incredible mind who is under appreciated by her family who don’t realise her brilliance and intelligence. When she attends school, Matilda encounters both kindness and cruelty at the hands of the grown ups around her and decides to take control of her own story and find her own happy ending. With songs by Tim Minchin and some amazing effects and choreography, Matilda will transport you to a place where you feel that you really could do anything with a little bit of determination and the desire to control your own story.
Now, if there ever was a show that could make you feel incredibly inferior about your own talent, it would be this one. The children in this show are exceptional. Of course, the entire show rests on the little shoulders of the young girl playing the title role of Matilda. In this case, this was Clara Read. She was adorable yet still able to bring Matilda’s quick mind and determination to life. She is the centre of almost every scene in the show and it is almost impossible to take your eyes off of her to watch what else is happening.
I must also give special praise to the little girl who played the role of Lavender. She was so sweet, but also incredibly confident in the way she directly addressed the audience in the opening scenes of act two. She had such a lovely big cheeky smile, I think everyone in the audience loved her.
I’ve now seen this show twice, and it always amazes me that the cast (in particular the children) are able to remember and perform such complex and intricate dance routines. A couple of numbers that particularly stand out to me are ‘The smell of rebellion’ and, of course, ‘The School Song’. The choreography appears so complex yet is executed perfectly by all involved. I loved how ‘The smell of rebellion’ starts out as a pretty much normal physical eduction class yet escalates into this brilliantly clever routine that involves gymnastics, stunts and some very funny slapstick comedy moments involving stunt falls and stretching ears.
The choreography of ‘The School Song’ is genius, and that’s the only way that I can think to describe it. A large gate makes up the sets, indicating the entrance to the terrifying Trunchum Hall school, and as the group of frightened children approach from one side onto the stage, you see a group of the older children approach from the other side, as if trapped inside the prison that is the school. And, of course, I have to mention the alphabet section of the song where the alphabet is recited within the clever lyrics of the song as the older ‘children’ climb the gates with incredibly precise moments to spell out each letter with each movement. Genius!
The special effects used in this show are brilliant, ranging from strobe lighting to illustrate a laser covered school room lockdown devised by the evil Miss Trunchball to the magical levitating chalk that writes the eerie warning on the blackboard. Even after seeing this show twice, I am yet to work out how some of the special effects work. This applies to some of the stunts too. Although I have a rough idea how little Amanda makes her reappearance on stage after the horrible head mistress sends her flying into the air by her pigtails, I still have no idea how she comes down from flying. Oh well, I suppose hats all part of the magic of this wonderful show.
One thing that I did love about the original story and in the film was Matilda’s magic. Although this is touched upon in the musical, with the floating chalk and the tipping water glass, I don’t think it is seen as much here as it is in the book and the film. There is no sneaking into the Trunchball’s house to save the doll or making everything in the house fly and dance. Although I miss this and would have loved to see this magic brought to life on the stage, it is somehow replaced by the Matilda’s bond with the librarian and her telling the story of the escapologist and the acrobat which are wonderful scenes portrayed with puppets, shadows and actors on the stage. I won’t give the story away, but I will say that Matilda’s seemingly made up story becomes very important as the show goes on.
In conclusion, Matilda is a show that will make you feel like a big kid again as well as making you feel that you could do anything and teach all those people that have done wrong by you a lesson or two. Everything in this show is so well thought out and clever, from the interlinking stories to the intricate choreography. The children as well as the adult casts are wonderful. To put it simply, Matilda will make you smile with it’s mixture of comedy, sweetness and all together brilliance.