Matilda the Musical review - May 2014
"truer to Dahl’s original book than the American film"I do not know how I have made it this long without seeing Matilda the Musical. I love Roald Dahl, I love theatre, I find Tim Minchin (musician and lyricist) pretty hilarious and I have a huge respect for the Royal Shakespeare Company, so on paper this sounds like the perfect musical for me. After FINALLY getting tickets to see the show I am very happy to report that my expectations were met 100%
Before the show had even started I was already blown away by Rob Howell’s set. The colour and vibrancy of this show was already physically bursting into the auditorium. As the production went on I was continually impressed by the scenic elements which were both surprising and delightful. The playful set was rather like something an imaginative child (like Matilda herself) would conjure up. On top of this I was amazed at the beautiful videography, especially that provided by Little Angel Puppet Theatre. This is a show where the audience can really see their money on stage (unlike in other West End shows where a painted wooden “bush” will do.)
Whilst I didn’t have the pleasure of the original cast of Matilda, the casting is still very strong. On the evening I attended, Cara Jenkins brought an interesting level of angst to the role of Matilda, making her plight very real. Jenkins’ singing voice was lovely and overall I was thoroughly impressed with all of the children, who showed genuine performing prowess beyond their years.
Best of all was the hilarious Alex Gaumond who portrayed a side splitting Miss Trunchbull. I LOVE the casting of Trunchbull as a man in drag; it serves to emphasis the character's masculinity, domineering nature and also manages to add a new level of ridicule to the tyrant. Gaumond was nothing but 100% committed to the role and provided some of the best moments of the show, for example his dreamlike solo about horses amid the montage of “The Smell of Rebellion.”
Above all, my favourite element to the show was Minchin’s music and inspiring lyrics. They spoke to me in a way that other lyricist have never quite managed. Musical ponderings from Matilda such as “There's no way of knowing if red means the same thing in your head as red means in my head,” perfectly sum up the burning questions children have inside of their developing brains. It sort of made me wonder when I stopped questioning things? Most of all, Minchin captured the bravery of children in the song “Naughty.” “Just because you find that life’s not fair, it doesn’t mean you just have to grin and bear it. If you always take it on the chin and wear it, nothing will change.” This line, from the mouth of someone around 20 years younger than me, speaks such sense to the audience who are perhaps reminded that children are much more honest they adults could ever dare to be.
I loved Matilda, I really did. This production is truer to Dahl’s original book than the American film, thus marking a return to its British roots. The set, cast and beautiful music made this show one of the best musicals I have seen in years. I left the Cambridge Theatre with a smile and a burning urge to be just a little bit more naughty!
8 May 2014, Cambridge Theatre