Matilda: The Musical (Cambridge Theatre)

Posted on November 26, 2011


This slut is pretty adverse to children. They’re noisy, messy and they **** up your hoo-ha! They ruin your life. I’ve seen too many good friends become insane bitches, locked in their own homes, all because the condom broke. So shows that are ‘kids shows’ generally have me screaming in the other direction. Not that I don’t like the stories, I can’t stand the audiences… all those maggots getting between me and a G&T at interval…

I’ve never read Roald Dahl‘s ‘Matilda‘, nor seen the film adaptation. The only thing I knew about this show in advance was that people had been raving about it at Stratford-Upon-Avon and Tim Minchin had written the songs.

The set is DIVINE! Rob Howell, grab your coat! You’ve pulled!

So it’s press night, and I enter the Cambridge thinking, “gee it’s weird that ‘Chicago‘ isn’t here any more”. Listening to the murmur of the critical crowd. A lot of old dears chatting about the ‘awful’ things they’ve had to review lately, and taking great pleasure in dismissing shows that I frankly adore (‘One Man, Two Guvnors‘ got a big upturned nose from an American gent in his 60s standing in the foyer next to me. Snob!).

I did feel awfully important to be here at a proper press night for a proper musical… well, to be honest it was a total fluke. I was invited by a (non-critic) friend, it just so happened to be press night.

A school of small girls (literally a school, that’s not a collective noun) had already taken over the Upper Circle, and the bar greeted me with a chalkboard repeatedly saying “I will order drinks. I will order drinks”. A nice touch I thought.

Now, I can be a shallow bitch at times and I’ve fallen for more than a few men at the sight of their beautiful faces, rugged bodies or enormous… wallets. I do not believe in ‘love at first sight’, but ‘Matilda: The Musical‘ had me from the second I walked into the theatre.

The set is DIVINE! Rob Howell, grab your coat! You’ve pulled!

I’ve been reliably informed the set has evolved significantly from the original out of town run, and it’s one of the most beautiful things I’ve seen in a long time. In fact, possibly one of the most enticing, immersive, joyful things I’ve seen since… well… ‘Cats‘!

As we took our seats I couldn’t help but notice the critics around me (Shenton to the left of me, Lyn Gardner to the right, here I am stuck in the middle with you… sorry!)

Singling out any performances is almost impossible. The entire ensemble did not miss a beat. Bertie Carvel‘s Miss Trunchbull is utter Dahl-ian perfection. Her stunt of picking up one of girls by her pigtails, spinning her around and throwing her into the auditorium is… well, you have to see it. I have not gasped and laughed and generally behaved like a child this much since I saw Taylor Lautner rip off his shirt in ‘New Moon‘. Carvel manages to create a whole character here without a hint of caricature. I mean, for **** sake, at one or two points you actually feel a tinge of sorrow for Miss Trunchbull!

I particularly liked how almost all of the ensemble had a ‘moment’ to call their own. From Tim Walton‘s opening Teacher/Doctor, to Matthew Malthouse & Emily Shaw‘s acrobat tale & Alastair Parker‘s Sergei. All actors who blended into the ensemble and poped out again to shine, and returned to their places. No effort to steal the scene or pull focus.

And as a formerly geeky girl myself there is a special place in my (ample) bossom for Melanie La Barrie‘s librarian Mrs Phelps. She brings a whole different emotional tone to the show (and some great pieces of humour).

And the musical numbers had me singing all the way home, filled with so many memorable moment! The swings at the opening of Act 2 (“When I Grow Up” is so full of wonder) and the alphabet gate in “The School Song” were my favourites.

Which brings me to the onstage band of children. I’ve NEVER seen a cat of kids this good before! While I’m sure, beging press night, the best of the best were on stage, there was not one fault. There was not one example of over acting. There was no sign of ‘stage kid’ syndrome (there are some OTT Billy Elliots out there!). If they can keep this standard up the show will run for years.

On the night in question we had Kelly Ingram as Matilda and she was, I keep using this word, perfection. A child actress who can carry big musical numbers, choreography and big emotional scenes – and all the while she is quite understated, as a child in Matilda’s situation would be. Really a wonder to watch.

All of which left me wondering, how is this the first musical I’ve heard of by Tim Minchin? I’ve known him as a comedian, but his skill in crafting musical theatre songs is up there with some of the best. These are songs that drive the piece forward. They illuminate character, and progress plot. They’re not ‘pop songs’ as in so many musicals (not just the jukebox ones), these are musical theatre songs. His witty lyrics and interesting melodies never let you get bored. There are shades of Sondheim in the melodies I’m sure. In fact I suspect they are deliberate flourishes. I hear Michin’s been commissioned to work on another musical and I can’t wait!

I’ve already booked tickets to see it at least a few more times, but I suspect that this show will be a fixture of the West End for some time, and rarely have I discovered a show that deserves that success more!


Rating: Flush away the pill and throw away the condoms, ‘Matilda: The Musical’ has me wanting a little maggot of my own (but only if she’s clever, strong and has powers).

Posted in: Musical