The man in front of me cried at the end while the teacher in front of him, out for the afternoon with a group of excited school children, jumped to his feet and led the standing ovation.
And there we were, at the end of the most incredible performance of Matilda the Musical, amazed at what we’d just seen – a magical show of song and dance, with an exceptional cast and brilliant storyline – that is that is nothing short of outstanding.
The Cambridge Theatre hidden away in Covent Garden is home to Matilda the Musical. The wooden alphabet blocks covering the front of the auditorium set the scene from the moment you take your seat. You’re immediately transported into the world of stories, books and imagination; the perfect setting to watch Roald Dahl’s classic book of the same name brought to life.
Matilda tells the story of Matilda Wormwood, a quiet, introverted child with telekinetic powers who copes with her neglectful TV-addicted family by feeding her imagination through the endless amount of books she reads.
The audience is taken on a journey from Matilda’s arrival on the planet, much to the annoyance of her hapless parents, through her time at Crunchem Hall school (motto: children are maggots), where her classmates are terrorised by Miss Trunchbull, the sadistic headmistress and one time Olympic hammer thrower.
Matilda’s intelligence (she’s read Dickens, Bronte and Hardy by the age of 5) is spotted by the warm and caring Miss Honey played brilliantly by Miria Parvin with the most stunning singing voice. Miss Honey spends time helping and supporting Matilda, much to Miss Trunchbull’s disgust. ‘The child is a terrorist,’ she tells her.
And it is Miss Trunchbull (played by Craige Els) who steals the show. Trunchbull is hilariously evil. Her line ‘to teach the child, we must first break the child’ brilliantly sums up her approach to education. The song Discipline sees the children put through their paces in the school gym in an expertly choreographed routine, while her opening performance of The Hammer is brilliantly entertaining.
With her calm yet sinister voice, icy cold stare and foreboding presence Trunchbull rules the school, constantly terrorising the children with her treats to put them in ‘chokey’ – a nailed line cupboard in her office. The audience watched in amazement as she literally span one child around with her pigtails and hurled her into the air. It’s all brilliantly entertaining.
Lizzie Wells (front of picture) in the role of Matilda was excellent and word perfect, as all the Matildas are. I’m always amazed by how a child as young as 9 or 10 can perform so professionally the lead role in a West End production. Many of the other children in the cast were younger, and also brilliant.
Together the children delivered a flawless performance. Highlights included them flying over the audience on swings in When I Grow Up, dancing on school desks in Revolting Children and of course the ending when they overthrow Miss Trunchbull thanks to Matilda’s telekinetic powers and celebrate with a fabulous song and dance routine in true Matilda style.
Matilda is magical – moving in parts and hilarious in others – and all superbly acted with an exceptional cast and a set of songs that you’ll be singing along to in your head for weeks.
Its storyline, songs and characters appeal to adults and children alike. The show is as good the second time as it is the first. In fact this was my fourth visit. I’m already planning my fifth.
The recommended lower age limit for children in the audience is 6. It’s a loud interactive performance with the evil Miss Trunchbull at its centre, which means there are some scenes that younger children might find scary.
It’s not difficult to see why Matilda, written by Dennis Kelly with music and lyrics by Tim Minchin and produced by the Royal Shakespeare Company, has won over 50 awards since it started. It is exceptional. Like the gentleman in front of me, you might just shed a tear at he end. I did.
Matilda The Musical is booking at the Cambridge Theatre in London’s West End until 18 December 2016. For more information please see www.matildathemusical.com / 0844 412 4652