Roald Dahl’s famous story comes to Milton Keynes Theatre this week in its full glory. Matilda is a small bright girl who is not appreciated by her parents or older brother. They think that you don’t need books and you can learn everything you need from TV. Matilda loves books and goes to the library every day to read more and more.
The show opens to all the perfect children being a princess or a miracle as their proud parents have told them endless times. That poor children’s party entertainer! Matilda loves the library and often tells the librarian, Mrs Phelps stories to pass away the time. Mrs Phelps is a big kind character with a big heart who gives Matilda all the time and attention she doesn’t get at home. When Matilda starts school, the older children tell the new kids how scary it is but Matilda isn’t scared. And when Miss Honey her teacher realises that Matilda is very clever she asks the headmistress, Miss Trunchbull if she can move her up to a higher class. Miss Trunchbull has no intention of doing any such thing and sends Miss Honey on her way. So, Miss Honey goes to speak with Matilda’s mum but Mrs Wormwood makes it clear that she believes looks are more important than books.
This well-loved book is truly brought to life on stage in a way that no other format could muster. The characters are larger than life and the sets are phenomenal. There are some breath-taking moments. I had my hand over my mouth when Miss Trunchbull picks up a small child by her pigtails and swings her around. Even though I know it’s not her real hair it was still shocking to see. Miss Trunchbull is a scary teacher. Poor Bruce who ate one slice of her chocolate cake. Miss Trunchbull makes him eat the whole cake in front of the class and then when he finally completes this task Miss Trunchbull drags him off to the Chokey as no one can win over her. The chokey is the worst place you can ever go as a child. It’s the stuff of nightmares that come true. The school is completely controlled by Miss Trunchbull. She used to be an Olympic champion and honestly hates children. Miss Trunchbull is played by Craige Els and he is an ugly fat woman. (Unrecognisable from his handsome head shot image). He plays Trunchbulll as overbearing and scary but also as a confident woman in charge of her life. He uses every element of her character to full effect and will probably still give small children nightmares. His job is done. Miss Honey is played by Carly Thoms and she is simply perfect in the role. Her balance of timid yet trying to be stronger, her empathy for Matilda and caring nature for all the children are displayed by Carly’s talented range of acting. Carly also has a beautiful singing voice and does her songs justice.
Mr Wormwood is played by Sebastien Torkia and he is outstanding in the role. He really gives it everything, from trying to get his hat off when its stuck down with glue (I thought he might fall over he was so convincing) to being the perfect sleezy car dealer who values money over education; Sebastien is truly one of the highlights of the show. I really enjoyed him opening the second act with Telly, a song about how educational TV is. It’s one of the highlights of the show so don’t be late back to your seat for the second act! His on-stage wife is played by Rebecca Thornhill and her Latin dancing is to be greatly admired. Rebecca plays Mrs Wormwood in such a way that you still warm to her character despite her lack of understanding of her daughter. She is bothered only about her looks, hair and dance competitions. Matilda is rotated as are all the children but tonight’s performance was played by Poppy Jones. Poppy is a sweet innocent looking Matilda and so stunned me when she managed to speak Russian during the show. A mention is also deserved for tonight’s Bruce played by Elliott Stiff who was fantastic not only as eating a huge chocolate cake but has a great singing voice and really gave us a Bruce we could all recognise. Mrs Phelps also deserves a mention as Michelle Chantelle Hopewell plays her with such affection we immediately take her into our hearts.
As I have mentioned, the sets were fantastic, with good use of the stage and swings at one point. The light up bricks were also very effective. The show was accompanied by a full band which is always an added bonus. Sadly, I do not think the songs are very memorable despite the brilliant Tim Minchin’s input but its the story that is the main star and this is a show worth seeing. The acting, dancing, production and use of the props along with lighting are all exceptional and if you loved Roald Dahl’s book you will love this – a really great production of a well-loved story.
Matilda is on at Milton Keynes Theatre until 30 June 2018 and then continues it UK tour.