This year I have been fortunate enough to have seen 4 amazing musicals in London’s West End. Wicked, Aladdin, Lion King and Matilda. It would be hard to rank them in order of preference, but Matilda would definitely be in the running for the top spot.
Playing from a snug theatre in Covent Garden at Seven Dials (a tiny roundabout where 7 streets converge!), Cambridge Theatre is home to Matilda – The Musical. The circular foyer entrance seems too small to account for the over 1000 people descending onto the Grade II listed building for an enjoyable evening, but nonetheless it is a delightful theatre. Having watched the movie many times as a kid, I was incredibly excited to experience the Royal Shakespeare Company’s take on Roald Dhal’s classic.
On one cold December evening just before the clock struck 7.30pm, I headed to the theatre and into the stalls with my theatre buddy. Sitting at the end of row F, I marvelled at the intricacy of the staging. The child-like chalk drawings on the walls, the scrabble-like letters scattered across the stage, an oddly built bookcase in the background; but most charmingly, the lit-up letters of ‘matilda’ placed on swings.
Soon the lights dimmed and the crowd quietened with the arrival of the singing children and adult performers on stage. With time, we were introduced to Matilda, the Wormwoods, Miss Honey and the hotly anticipated Trunchbull. It was brilliant to see Matilda played by a child of African descent who was insanely talented. I was inspired by how this miniature actress of around 8 years old was so fierce, and completely owned the stage with her presence. Being so small and with such a big voice and heart, it was beautiful to see her act out live on stage. But I must say, I didn’t take to Mr Wormwood as easily. For those who remember the BBC’s Steptoe and Son, it seemed Harold Steptoe had returned as Mr Woormwood! At points, Michael Begley’s acting came across as more gimmicky than required. But Trunchbull. Simply WOW. I was blown away by Craig Els’ commitment to the role and it was great justice to Trunchbull from the movie. Trunchull’s acting was fabulous and added such an amusing twist to the musical.
All in all, this was a fabulous must-see musical. The talent of the performers was extraordinary. The classic movie moments were exhilarating – Bruce Bogtrotter devouring his chocolate cake, Amanda Thripp being swung round by her ponytails and that hat glued to Mr Wormwood’s head!
The staging was even more spectacular. If you can, I would highly recommend sitting in the stalls. The performers regularly came out to act through the aisles. And as I was sitting on the end of row F to the right of the stage, they were stopping right beside me which was a thrilling experience in itself.
A truly mind blowing show!