“Stories are best when they are a bit like rollercoasters, with highs and lows, twists and turns, a good bit of fear and the significant risk that someone might vomit. Matilda has all these things.” – Tim Minchin
The Royal Shakespeare Company and Crown Music Theatre presents Perth with the multi-award winning, gobsmacking Matilda the Musical. A two-act production adapted by playwright Dennis Kelly and Perth-born comedian, musician and composer Tim Minchin, Matilda the Musical celebrates the power of storytelling, imagination, and taking hold of one’s destiny.
For those who are not familiar with this zesty tale, Matilda the Musical is based on a British novel written by Roald Dahl in 1986 (age 70). The prolific author described himself as an “infantile geriatric”, and rightly so. Dahl wrote from the perspective of a child made powerless in a world run by adults. The musical adaption weaves together Tim Minchin’s rhythmic wit with the children’s classic to stunning effect. One might note the parallels between Minchin’s silly lyrics with Dahl’s made up vocabulary, Gobblefunk.
Act one opens with the lively number, ‘Miracle’. This rowdy introduction simulates the O.T.T. nature of parents and their unconditional love for their children. Containing lyrics such as “My mummy says I’m a miracle”, this is the complete antithesis to Matilda’s life. Born into the telly obsessed and money hungry Wormwood family, Matilda is nothing like her parents. Mr. and Mrs. Wormwood (Daniel Frederiksen and Marika Aubrey) insult her intelligence and love of books. Only when she starts going to school does she discover a faint ray of hope amid the dangers of “Crunchem Hall”. Her teacher Miss Honey (Elise McCann) encourages Matilda’s appetite for learning. Whereas the head mistress, Miss Trunchbull (James Millar) believes “Children are maggots!”, and has devilish intentions for any child that challenges her. I cannot speak for Dahl himself, but I imagine he would have found Miss Trunchbull’s dominating stage presence and comical cabaret moments to be an absolute riot. Millar manifests Miss Trunchbull in a way that the book and movie adaption could not.
Matilda herself – played by Eva Murawski on opening night (Matilda is also played by Izellah Connelly and Venice Harris) gives a sensitive and enlightening performance in numbers such as ‘Naughty’ and ‘Quiet’. With similar excellence Exodus Lale, who plays Bruce, delivers a cheeky yet soulful performance. The overall cast of child and adult performers are highly commendable for their relentlessly energetic delivery.
A particularly unique feature of the show is that it acknowledges the complex personalities of its characters and their internal musings. We witness isolated tangents which are accumulative and necessary. Unexpected and surreal moments like Matilda’s narrated story “The Acrobat and the Escapologist” illustrate the imagination of characters beyond the grandiosity of musical numbers.
The production design by Ron Howell takes on a modern-retro aesthetic. The set transports viewers with fluidity, and incorporates dynamic representations of place. From costumes to orchestrations, the audio-visual sensations of Matilda the Musical are prismatic. Things are colourful and vivacious, taking leave from Quinton Blake’s sparky illustrations of Dahl’s stories
My only critique lies with the construction of Michael Wormwood’s character, who has no complete lines except for loud interjections. His grating stage presence is perceived by viewers as comic relief, however to me it came across as insensitive to a person with disabilities. I would hope this was not the conceit of the character.
I’d like to end with some earnest nostalgia: When I was eight, Mum and I would embark on a ritualistic drive to a Morley newsagency (opposite to the good ol’ Galleria). This was so I could collect all 60 issues of The Magical World of Roald Dahl magazine, once a week for a year and a bit. At twenty, I still have these in my cupboard, collector’s cards, charms and all. On this note I can confirm Matilda the Musical will electrify children and adults with the unmistakable magic of Roald Dahl gone musical.
Words by Gabby Loo