DARKLY comic, wonderfully warped yet ultimately uplifting, the strange worlds of Roald Dahl have long captured the imagination of children and adults alike.
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THE PLAYHOUSE, Greenside Place
The story of Matilda, the most desolate of his tales, is no exception, perhaps the reason The Royal Shakespeare Company chose to bring it to life on stage.
Nine years after it opened in London, becoming a West End smash hit along the way, Matilda the Musical has finally arrived in the Capital to share the story of Matilda, an extraordinary little girl who, armed with a vivid imagination and a sharp mind, dares to take a stand and change her own destiny.
Matilda Wormwood is a child out of place, an intelligent bookworm in a family of wasters and con artists.
Neglected, she loses herself in a fantasy world of tall tales and storytelling, which continues with hilarious results when she finds herself enrolled in Crunchem Hall, a school ruled by mysteriously masculine Miss Trunchbull.
This is a funny, fast and furious production that touches the heart thanks to outstanding performances from all the 30 strong company.
Credit especially must go to all the young members of the cast led by Scarlett Cecil’s precocious Matilda, a confident turn that belies her years.
Truth be told, however, they all deserve a mention for high energy, disciplined performances that charm and entertain in equal measure. Take a bow Toby Mocrei, Ben Pike, Alfie Sanderson, Toby Hales, Lillie Downton, Aiya Augustin, Lily Van Veen and Darcy Kelly. All wonderful maggots.
They are supported by some of the country’s top musical theatre stars.
Rebecca Thornhill and Sebastien Torkia are gloriously grotesque as Mrs and Mr Wormwood - the former, a cavorting ballroom dancing fanatic, the later, an angular used-car spiv.
Their carefully crafted cartoon physicality allows them to create hilariously colourful caricatures.
As librarian Mrs Phelps, Michelle Chantelle Hopewell makes a triumphant return to the theatre where just a few years ago she worked as an usher.
Her’s is a warm, loving character, as is Carly Thoms’ birdlike Miss Honey. Both bring huge compassion to their roles as Matilda’s only friends.
That said, whenever Elliot Harper’s Miss Trunchbull takes to the stage there is no doubting who is the star of the piece.
Harper’s outrageous cross-dressing creation uses a fine display of physical comedy to ensure that his evil headmistress is never too frightening. She may be evil, but is greeted with cheers and roars of laughter at each appearance.
Played out on Rob Howell’s eye-catching library themed set, Matilda The Musical is a vibrant feast for the eyes.
Musically there are two standout anthems from Tim Minchin, but you do have to wait for them.
When I Grow Up, the famous scene which finds the cast swinging out over the audience near the start of Act II, ensures that, while Act I ended on a low note, the second half takes things up a notch.
The closing number, Revolting Children, is an upbeat, feel good extravagant finale that lifts the roof of the theatre.
Of course, that everyone lives happily ever after is never a given with Dahl. To discover if Matilda does grab your tickets while you can, if you don’t, you could end up in the Chokey!
The musical runs until 27 April.
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