Theatre Review - 'Matilda The Musical'

Posted on: 09 December 2011 by Alexander Hay

A triumphant testimony to the power of storytelling is provided by the wonderful Matilda: The Musical, an RSC production adapted from Roald Dahl’s 1988 novel which has transferred from Stratford-upon-Avon to the Cambridge Theatre in the West End

Michael Gove's dream come true, Miss TrunchballThe central figure Matilda is a girl who loves reading and relishes Dickens and Dostoevsky in the way, other children adore sweets.

But her repugnant, telly-addicted family thinks she is just a jumped-up germ. Mum is convinced her brainy daughter is a strong reason for population control, while dad thinks you don’t need to be clever if you can sell.

Meanwhile her tyrannical headmistress Miss Trunchbull, a hammer-thrower turned teacher, whose motto is “to teach the child, we must first break the child”, is a living personification of all the brutality and beastliness that adults can inflict on children.

However Matilda is a very special little girl who, apart from an extraordinary imagination, has a rare gift – she is endowed with unique telekinetic powers which not only enable her to control her own story but defeat the bullies in the process!

This is a truly enchanting, and inventive musical about cruelty and kindness and joy and terror that celebrates the solace of books and the transforming powers of the imagination.

Comedian and singer-songwriter Tim Minchin adds witty lyrics and playful tunes which help develop the plot and our understanding of the characters, as well as being splendidly satirical and emotional, while Peter Darling’s exuberant dance routines performed by a particularly well-drilled troupe of children give the show a real element of excitement. Furthermore, Rob Howell’s striking set with its piles of books and alphabet blocks create just the right atmosphere.

In terms of the performances, director Matthew Warchus elicits a confident and appealing performance from lead Cleo Demetriou, one of the four young actresses sharing the title role, while Paul Kaye as her spivish, greedy father and Josie Walker as her vulgar, peroxide–glam mother manage to be both horrible and hilarious. Finally, Lauren Ward is most touching as the sympathetic and selfless teacher Miss Honey who finds a kindred spirit in Matilda.

But the undisputed star of the show is the marvellous Bertie Carvel, looking like a cross between a pantomime dame and a grotesque witch, as the mincing, sadistic Miss Trunchbull, much prone to whirling children around in the air by their pigtails.

This indeed is five star family entertainment for both young and old alike and an ideal Christmas treat. Not to be missed.

Runs until February 12, 2012

Box office: 0844 800 1110

Press: The Corner Shop 0207 494 3665

By Laurence Green

 

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Alexander Hay

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