Hobbies / Literature / Personal Opinion

REVIEW: Matilda the Musical

I’ve written previously about my admiration for the amazing children’s writer Roald Dahl, and have made clear that despite not being a child, I still enjoy his fantastic work.

Most people will have heard of Dahl’s story Matilda, which tells of an extraordinary child who uses the power of her imagination to overcome her horrendous and cruel parents. Those who have not read the book are likely to have seen the 1996 film adaptation which is loved by many.

Having loved both Dahl’s story and the film of Matilda, I was lucky enough to receive tickets to see the West End performance of Matilda the Musical for my birthday this year, and I watched the show on the 3rd April this year at The Cambridge Theatre, London.

As I entered the theatre I was instantly impressed by the surroundings, as the stage settings appeared to have leaked right into the porch, with props and decorations filling the entrance leading into the theatre, creating a sense of magic from the off.

The stage itself was even more wonderful. As it’s hard to describe how fantastic it was, I will show you for yourself:

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The characters themselves were brilliant, particularly the children who were all very little. To be able to have such talent at such a young age is amazing, and I was in awe of them the whole way through. Particular regards go to the Matilda of the evening, played by tiny Elise Blake, who was well-spoken, clear and performed to perfection. Although she was smart, courageous and kind, she also had a streak of naughtiness, which saw her bleach her father’s hair and perform similar acts of revenge, which made her even more likeable to me (no-one likes a goody two shoes).

Miss Trunchball, played by David Leonard, was horribly wonderful and the audience loved to hate her. One of my favourite parts of the musical was definitely the moment when, like in the film, Miss Trunchball swung pretty little Amanda round in circles by her long blonde plaits and threw her into the distance.

Miss Honey, played by Haley Flaherty, was timid, kind and just as lovable as she is in both the story and the film. Similarly, Mr and Mrs Wormwood, played by Orange Wednesday’s Steve Furst and Annette McLaughlin were just as horrible, although arguably more humorous than their counterparts.

Mrs Phelps, the librarian, was performed by who I assume to be an understudy, Maria Lawson, although she played the part so well I would be disappointed not to see her play the role if I went to see the musical again.

The play for me definitely maintained the heart of Dahl’s book and was based on the idea of story telling, as Matilda created a fabulous story, capturing the attention of both Mrs Phelps and the audience with her enthusiastic performance of her imagination. Of course, being an English student who is myself enthralled by stories and the imagination, I thoroughly enjoyed this element of the play as I’m not generally a huge fan of musicals, and prefer stories to sing-songs. Having said this, the songs were well written and very enjoyable. They were also very catchy, and I was still singing them to myself as I travelled home on the train that night.

Although the musical followed the plot of the story, it had its own added elements, such as the story told by Matilda to the new character of Mrs Phelps, which was not only a fresh take on Dahl’s creation, but an extra push on the power of the imagination.

I would recommend the musical to absolutely anyone, though it is perfect for a family day out, particularly for those who are struggling to tear their children away from the television. After all, the play itself uses the Wormwood family to critique the obsession this generation has with the television, as the characters who are obsessed with TV are ignorant and disgusting, whereas the characters who enjoy reading are likeable.

Far too many children are more concerned with playing video games and watching television than reading, and although I’m in no way against video games (I’m a fan myself), I do think it’s a real shame that children of this age very rarely read books, and so shows like Matilda may encourage children of different ages to pick up a book and read.

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