Royal Shakespeare Company, The Courtyard Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon
Friday 19th November 2010
As an audience member word-perfect with the original Roald Dahl book and a fierce fan of the 1996 film version, I approached Matilda, A Musical with some trepidation. However, with Matthew Warchus at the helm, a book by Dennis Kelly, music and lyrics by the comedy legend Tim Minchin, and choreography by Peter Darling, this production combines Dahl’s broad appeal with the magic of the theatre, and is nothing short of a triumph.
Matilda tells the captivating story of an unforgettable young girl, overcoming the overbearing adults around her. Josie Griffiths is mesmerising in the title role, bringing intelligence and vulnerability to the role. Matilda sings ‘when you are little you can do a lot’, which is aptly demonstrated in the performances of the extraordinarily talented schoolchildren, who attack Darling’s energetic routines with unparalleled enthusiasm and astounding professionalism.
The entire cast is excellent. The grotesque Miss Trunchball, played by the hilarious Bertie Carvel, moves as a living Quentin Blake drawing, and is at times completely terrifying. Paul Kaye and Josie Walker skilfully caricaturise the ignorant Wormwoods, and Lauren Ward is the perfect counterbalance with her suitably sweet Miss Honey.
Dennis Kelly’s script appeals to both adults and children, while Minchin’s songs are a perfect accompaniment. Minchin demonstrates his lyrical dexterity and comedic cheekiness with tunes that will remain in your head for days. In particular, ‘When I Grow Up’ will leave many parents misty-eyed.
Most importantly, with a finale entitled ‘Revolting Children’, Matilda, A Musical is a production of which Dahl himself would have been proud.