Warning: exceptionally talented young children ahead. The tale of Matilda – the classic underdog, the David versus Goliath if you will- has never been told quite so well. Without comparing the musical to the nightmare-inducing film created almost twenty years ago, Tim Minchin’s music, along with Warchus’ directorial skill, brings the show to life in a whole new way.
From the moment they enter the colour-speckled auditorium, the audience is utterly captivated in the wonder that is the set design. Rob Howell, the set and costume designer, attempts to capture the essence of youthful exuberance and Matilda’s love for the written word with the mass of colour and block letters that take up the entire stage. If the aesthetics of the set still doesn’t provoke a slack-jawed response and completely envelop you into Matilda’s world, the set comes to life in a way that is nothing less than indescribable. The interactive element of the set during the musical numbers was especially enchanting– several songs left the audience in a state of shock over the ingenuity of it all.
Making use of the unique stage, each and every one of the cast members of this production demonstrates sheer talent and the children… those children. The enthusiasm they put into the show completely transports the audience into a place of a joy and innocence- and yet, simultaneously, horror. Once the children take you into their world, David Leonard’s satirical portrayal of the menacing ex-hammer-olympian-turned-unforgiving-headmistress will have you crying in your seat. Leonard’s truly above-and-beyond enactment of Trunchball revived all my childhood fears the second he stepped on stage – the languid, supposedly elegant physicality of this domineering figure is a complete juxtaposition to the Trunchball we all know (and fear) from the book.
The visual of the entire performance, too, is a spectacle in and of itself. The lighting and sound (and the music) are not separate articles from the show. There is no distraction from the story, it all just fits. There are moments within Matilda that are so shocking, it is like, at times, the sound effects have been put in by the audience, as if it was all improvised- in the most fantastical way possible.
Not only does the set brilliantly capture the wonder of childhood, but Minchin’s lyrics are both youthful and a gratuitously witty display of puns and word plays. Furthermore, Dennis Kelly’s witty dialogue between the musical performances work in tandem with Minchin’s lyrics, creating a truly exceptional and all-round enjoyable performance. The interaction within the cast is so natural and organic at some points that it really is possible to forget that there is, in fact, a script to be followed. To capture this connection between characters so fluidly and with such ease is a rare example of genius that is worthy of endless praise.
Matilda The Musicalis an absolute delight from beginning to end. The brilliance of Matilda can be appreciated by anyone- a six year old, a sixty year old- this production really is entertaining for the entire family. This beautiful piece of musical theatre celebrates childhood and happiness- and the unparalleled joy that only comes from rebelling against that one really horrible teacher we all had as a kid.