Matilda! The Book, the movie, or the musical?

My mummy says I’m a miracle… This is the beginning of the play adapted from the world-famous book by Roald Dahl. We’ve all read Matilda. We’ve all wished we had super powers and were strong enough to stand up against the adults that bully us. Even now, at the age of 22, I can still relate. Not all of us were fortunate enough to hear these words from our parents, but most certainly we’ve all had that one teacher who we thought was extremely unfair and unnecessarily strict. This play encapsulates everything it means to be a child: the fears, the hopes and the frustrations. Although Kitty Peterkin is missing the iconic ribbon in her hair, the 10-year-old actress renders an interpretation of the character so strong yet so pure, that even the adults in the audience could not help but “ooh” and “aah” and “aww” at everything she did.

Playwright Dennis Kelly’s idea of telling a story within a story may not have been completely unique, but he worked it in a way that only added to the already magical plot. Acrobats and magicians, flying tricks and of course, true love, all incorporated for a spectacular visual celebration that will pluck every string in your heart.

Little Matilda portrayed a brave girl who would not idly watch as injustice ruled her world. Ms. Trunchball’s performance was strong, fierce and scary at times, without simultaneously losing the childlike humour that Dahl had originally intended for this story. The addition of the parodic femininity of Agatha Trunchball was perfectly portrayed by actor David Shannon. She (he) was marvellously hideous, and horrid, just as we remember, but also hinting at humourous.

The children, other than being too cute to bear, were excellently disciplined and on every single beat of their choreography and prominent facial expressions. And if you thought Danny DeVitto was the perfect Mr Wormwood, then call me crazy because I think there is definitely room for one more to wear that crown – Tom Edden.

His over-the-top, ludicrous interpretation of the character kept our cheeks aching of laughter without missing a beat. The inclusion of the audience at the start of the second half also made us feel a lot more immersed, and even when he was quite rude to my friend (Thank you for the tickets D.) I still laughed about it for ages. I mean, it’s not rude if it’s funny, right?

Mrs Wormwood fit right into her character as if she’d been greedy and superficial all her life. She and her dance partner, Rodolpho (a now vital addition to the story,) stole the show with their dance number, all to remind us that LOOKS are more important than BOOKS (pfft, yeah right) and that what you say doesn’t matter, as long as you say it loud enough (I LOOOVE BOOOOKS- can you hear me in the back?).

Mrs Phelps had more appearances in the musical than she was granted in the book or the film, but all I saw in her character was a reflection of us, the audience. She acted out the excitement we all felt, her mouth gaped for our awe, and she prodded Matilda on each time we longed to hear more.

The set, the music, the lighting, everything was intelligently set up to set the scenes and create the moods intended for us, just as well getting us thrilled about the acting and the performance, getting us to focus our attention exactly where they intended us to.

And yet, it was somewhat annoying that it took Miss Honey so much convincing and an entire song just to… knock on the door?
Our favourite childhood teacher (after Professor Dumbledore of course) was rendered a coward. She was never like this in the movie, and certainly not in the book! She was always afraid of Aunt Agatha, yes, but that fear was supposed to make her stronger, someone who is facing her battles and trying to make the world a better place for children like Matilda. In the musical, this fear seems more paralysing than anything. Miss Honey becomes weak, defeated even, as if she’d given up on hope and justice. The musical does not depict that miss Honey saves Matilda from a loveless, and potentially abusive home. It doesn’t so much as portray the mutual need that the two have for each other. It merely shows us that Matilda was a prodigy who came to save Miss Honey from her own cowardice. What a disappointment. Just knock on the door Jenny *eye roll*.

But all the same, I came out of the theater with a new copy of the books, my new favourite mug and a fridge magnet. An unmissable experience for children and adults alike.

4/5 Stars.

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