Words by Mel Lynch
Based on the book by the infamous Roald Dahl, Matilda the Musical has arrived at the Millennium centre with an explosive bang of magical mischief. The transition from book to stage wasn’t as smooth as many may think, where it took seven years to be completed – significantly longer than it took to write the book. Over the years the production has attracted a global audience of over 8 million and picked up a staggering 85 international awards. So as one can imagine I had rather high expectations, and **spoiler alert** they were met and outrageously exceeded.
The narrative, whilst quite different from the original beloved Dahl writings, was excellent and ideal for the stage setting. All your favourite character’s return, skilfully adapted by the Royal Shakespeare Company to keep the initial magic of the story we all grew up to love, whilst throwing in some glitzy musical show stoppers that go down a treat. The set design was equally impressive. Thoughtfully and intelligently constructed which integrated the cast with their backdrops seamlessly. Particularly seen with the iconic lettering clusters which frame the stage, where during ‘School song’ the older children use the light up lettering blocks to create new stage pieces, which was wickedly well executed.
A key take away was just how much fun all performers were having, particularly from the children, which made the production even more a delight to watch. Scarlett Cecil was sensational as Matilda, with phenomenal vocals and acting to match, the young actress held her own amongst the other talented children. Taking on the role of a globally loved character is no easy feat but I can unequivocally say she did it justice, giving a sensitive yet witty performance. Craig Els as the treacherous large-bosomed battle-axe miss Trunchbull is simply phenomenal. We’re introduced to Truchbull in the most perfect maniacal way, where she swivels from a high backed chair in her school office, to glare upon miss Honey. The costuming is iconic also, Els strikes the tricky balance of terrifying yet humorous without going full pantomime bad guy in his stand out performance.
The production was uber high energy and quick paced throughout with dialogue that will leave children cackling and adults in tears. It seems odd to think in the past the Matilda was originally the only child actor in the production, as the cast of mostly children truly made it for me. Their great attitude and undeniable cuteness was a joy to watch, I was left in awe of their emotional skill as performers and their faultless comedic timing. I can honestly say the production left me smiling from start to finish.
So if you couldn’t guess already, I could not recommend this performance enough, truly one of the best things I’ve seen on stage in years and certainly not to be missed.