From the moment I walked into the auditorium and saw the vibrant stage setup, I just knew the show was going to be brilliant – and I was right.
On the 6th of December 2018, I was lucky enough to see Matilda the Musical at The Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff. From the moment I walked into the auditorium and saw the vibrant stage setup, I just knew the show was going to be brilliant – and I was right. Written and adapted for the stage by Dennis Kelly and Tim Minchin, the story is a fantastic interpretation of the original book by Roald Dahl. The musical projects the story in such an energetic and entertaining way – the cast and crew should truly take pride in what I can only describe as an explosion of creativity.
My jaw dropped when I saw the set; it was so cleverly made and put together. A wonderfully scattered piece of art, which filled the stage from top to bottom with Scrabble tiles that spelt out different combinations of letters that Matilda uses to make words, then sentences and stories out of. It was such a magical scene for the audience and immediately set positive expectations and a great atmosphere within the room.
I couldn’t write a review, without commending the character of Miss Agatha Trunchbull – the cold, intimidating Headmistress of Crunchem Hall Academy. A frightful, dismissive shadow over the lives of the schoolchildren and Miss Honey, Trunchbull has a dark past that is connected to the unassuming character of Miss Honey, and this plays out through the conflict between the two leading characters. Miss Trunchbull was played in drag by Craig Els, who, for me, was the highlight of the show. Myself and the rest of the audience were belly laughing at the antics of Miss Trunchbull, and Els kept us entertained throughout the heavier parts of the story; he combined darkness and humour perfectly as the main antagonist.
One of Trunchbull’s highlights for me was her song ‘The Hammer’. Even though she is singing about her hammer-throwing competitions, I found what she was saying, to also be symbolic of her way of life – keeping strictly to the rules and not doing anything that would go against them. For example, let’s take the lyrics, “Did I drift off and dream for a minute or two?” and “You have to stay inside the circle all the time.” This gives the audience an insight into Trunchbull’s mentality, and I think the way the lyrics of the song coincide with her outlook on life is interesting and well written.
The performances of the child actors were also praise worthy. I was amazed by the energy, the consistency, the talent and the skill on that stage. I had to keep reminding myself that they were children, because the performances that they all gave were to the same high standard that I’ve seen from adults! They really shone with their exceptional singing, dancing and acting. The song that I found to be marvellous was ‘Revolting Children’. The singing was great, but the choreography was amazing! Each movement was so sharp and powerful, and I commend the young actors for doing this, especially whilst keeping up with the singing too.
Speaking of child actors, the protagonist of the show was, obviously, Matilda. Matilda was played by Scarlett Cecil, who did a splendid job. She was engaging and energetic. I was very impressed at how well she did taking on this main role, as there were so many solo songs, routines and lines to learn. These are difficult things to do for adult actors, let alone younger ones. So, she should be very proud.
There were also Matilda’s neglectful parents, the Wormwoods. Sebastien Torkia did a brilliant job as Mr.Wormwood, and I truly believed his identity as a dodgy, East End car salesman. Although, I just didn’t feel that the character of Mrs.Wormwood was true to the one in the book or the film. I didn’t believe her to be a dodgy, East End housewife – she was just a little bit too put together. I would have liked her character to be a little more crass and a little less posh. But, this is no fault of Rebecca Thornhill, who did an excellent job at playing the character.
Another thing that I simply have to mention, is the scene where the character of schoolgirl, Amanda Thripp, gets called out by Truchbull for having pigtails. Trunchbull grabs the little girl by her hair and swings her around the stage in circles, before throwing her up into the air. Amanda then lands back on the stage and stands up safely, without being harmed during the scene. The audience applauded and cheered the two characters for pulling off this iconic scene so well. This was definitely one of the highlights of the show for me, as it looked so realistic and had me on the edge of my seat. Another highlight for me was ‘The School Song’. The way the alphabet was spelt out so discreetly during the song was very lyrically impressive. For example: “And Even if you put in heaps of eFfort, you’re just wasting enerGy!” Also, there were boxes that were labelled with letters of the alphabet, which were getting slotted into a gate by the older/past schoolchildren. The way these boxes were put into the gate so forcefully, and each letter lit up one at a time, was impactful.
Overall, the show was outstanding from start to finish. It’s something that the audiences will remember for a very long time. I would recommend it to anyone and everyone. It’s such a fabulous adaption of the original book and film. So, anyone who has read and watched them, will definitely love this version. Also, for anyone who hasn’t read the book or seen the film – it’s such a superb first experience to have of the story.
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I’m very grateful to Wales Millennium Centre and WICID for giving me the opportunity to watch and review this excellent show.