A hilariously fun, family-friendly musical with a heart of pure gold. A must see for any Roahl Dahl fan or musical theatre lover.
As soon as you walk into the Cambridge Theatre to see Matilda The Musical, you are transported into another world. The stage design sees hundreds of what could be described as children’s building blocks and scrabble pieces making up key words from the show. These bright colours and wacky sets prepare you for a magical two hours in the world of Roald Dahl.
Matilda The Musical is based on the much loved children’s novel of the same name written by Dahl, which was later turned into a film directed by Danny DeVito in 1996. The musical was commissioned by the Royal Shakespeare Company in 2011 and is written by Dennis Kelly with music and lyrics by Australian comedian Tim Minchin. The narrative centres on the young heroine Matilda Wormwood, an intelligent five year old girl who loves reading, yet is neglected by her television-loving, crook parents, who did not even want her as a baby, so much so that her father refers to her as ‘boy’ despite her repeatedly correcting him.
Mr. Wormwood (James Clyde) is a dodgy second-hand salesman who illegally sells old, bashed up cars to the Russian mafia, while Mrs. Wormwood (Kay Murphy) is focused on her Latin American dance competitions and her garish looks. The couple do not understand Matilda’s love of reading and want her to be more like her brother and fall victim to the TV, in the process becoming like most modern teenagers, binge-watching until the earlier hours of the morning. The musical sees Matilda overcome the obstacles caused by her negligent family in various ways, such as seeking revenge on her father for tearing up her beloved books, by putting peroxide into his shampoo in the song ‘Naughty’. The light-hearted song makes Matilda’s act of naughtiness seem anything but.
The first scenes of Crunchen Hall – Matilda’s new school – welcome Matilda into the school gates with the hilarious tune ‘School Song’. The production sees the younger cast, mixed with the ‘big kids’, all in school uniforms crawling about the stage and into the audience. Everywhere you look something new happens. The most exciting part of the scene was the incorporation of the set. The building blocks are used to spell out the alphabet within the school gates, with dancers climbing and jumping off them and using the alphabet to sing the song. It’s fun and humorous and exactly what you’d expect from a children’s based musical.
However as one would expect, the character that steals the show is the villainous Miss Trunchball, the foal-mouthed former Olympian, child-hating headmistress. In the second act, Miss Trunchball (played by a Craige Els in drag) has her own number, which sees her put the school children through their paces in a grueling class of psychical education. The scene sees Trunchball have her Shirley Bassey moment, with the spotlight on her as she is carried on atop P.E equipment in place of chaise lounge.
The musical concludes with the children overcoming ‘The Trunchball’ with a rock homage ‘Revolting Children’, in which they rock out on top of their desks and run riot in the classroom, lead by everyone’s favourite cake stealer, Bruce Boggtroter. The revolt, along with Matilda’s use of physic powers of writing on the chalkboard, force the Trunchball to flee.
Overall the musical is a joy to watch, with a beautiful message that you can control your own story and overcome bullies through the power of persuasion, teamwork and quiet rebellion. It proves you don’t have to big or strong or forceful to be able to win, all you need is self-belief and determination, which Matilda clearly has in spades.
Matilda The Musical is at the Cambridge Theatre. Tickets are priced between £20-£122.50 and can be purchased here.