On Friday the 19th of November, I had the privilege to see The RSC's new production of Matilda a Musical at the Courtyard Theatre in Stratford. A regular audience member at the RSC, I thought I knew what to expect; previous Christmas shows such as Beauty and the Beast, Arabian Nights and Noughts and Crosses were dramatic productions starring well experienced adult actors. Matilda, A Musical with its brightly coloured set, lively songs and energetic young cast came as a surprise, but I must say a very good surprise!
From the first scene and the song "Miracle" the audience was enchanted by the talented young cast and didn't take their eyes off the stage until the house lights went on for the interval. But it wasn't just the young cast that impressed, Lauren Ward made a genuine and innocent Miss Honey that the audience could empathise with, Josie Walker and Paul Kaye were witty in their portrayal of Matilda's awfully selfish parents, the Wormwoods, and Bertie Carvel had the right balance of terrifying the audience and making them laugh out loud when playing the evil Miss Trunchbull. However the star of the show was the young heroine herself, Adrianna Bertola as Matilda. Bertola acted in such a professional way beyond her years, yet she never failed to convince the audience of Matilda's naivety and innocence. When performing "Naughty" and "Quiet", Bertola filled the stage, stunning audiences to silence with her talent and charm. Bertola is definitely one to watch as a future leading lady.
Dennis Kelly's book is much more loyal to Dahl's story than the 1996 film version, concentrating on Miss Honey's background and keeping Matilda's magical powers to a minimum. Minchin's music and lyrics fitted beautifully with the text and really enabled these larger than life characters to come alive on the stage.
The setting and special effects were wonderful, school desks appearing from under the floor, swings lowering down and a girl being dropped from the ceiling all kept the audience at the edge of their seats, not knowing what was going to happen next. Furthermore the design of the set allowed quick scene changes without awkward blackouts as different settings such as Matilda's bedroom were automatically moved onto stage in a matter of seconds, thus the flow of the story need not be interrupted, particularly important considering the young age of some of the audience members.
Yet, it wasn't just children that were enchanted by Matilda, A Musical; the witty jokes ensured adults found it just as amusing and enjoyable. The two year old sat between her parents beside me was just as entertained as the elderly couple sat two rows in front. Matilda, A Musical is certainly a musical for everyone and no doubt will attract large numbers of people until it finishes in January. For me, January seems like too soon for this magical show to end so I'm keeping my fingers crossed for a West End transfer!
Matilda, A Musical Photography by Manuel Harlan