Six Years On, How's Matilda The Musical Holding Up?
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Matilda Wormwood is five. But also six, as Tim Minchin’s sharp adaptation of the Roald Dahl story just started its seventh year at the Cambridge. How’s it holding up?
First things first — this is a show ‘about’ childhood without being a children’s show. It was conceived and produced by the Royal Shakespeare Company, with a clever script and catchy songs, but it works on so many levels that while kids — especially kids who enjoy a book as much as a video — will love it, grown-ups warm to its themes and the cleverness of the content.
Matilda’s an imaginative girl, scorned by her uber-chavvy parents who think ‘the bigger the telly the smarter the man’ but she’s also Everygirl for anyone who felt at some time they didn’t fit in. At Crunchem Hall, the prep school (Dahl is so middle class) run by the Olympic but also Amazonian hammer-throwing Miss Trunchbull with its motto ‘Children are Maggots’, she becomes a fighter not just for her own acceptance, but against all oppression.
Miss Trunchbull was originally played by Bertie Carvel, lately the faithless husband of Doctor Foster on BBC One, but the role has now been taken on by Irish vocalist David Shannon. The ladies on the confectionery stall think this cast is ‘playing more for comedy’ and ‘broader’ than the original, and we wouldn’t disagree — but while it’s an ideal show for an outing around Christmas, the production values, the splendid set, the music, and the determination of the young cast, mean it’s a class way above pantomime.
Matilda the Musical, Cambridge Theatre, Seven Dials, WC2. Booking to February 2019.
Last Updated 15 November 2017