Review: 4**** Matilda the Musical – Cambridge Theatre @MatildaMusical @TheRSC

Witty, wonderful and weird until the very end. Matilda champions bold imaginations, standing together and fighting for what is right. 

The RSC’s spell-binding production of Roald Dahl’s much-loved classic both mesmerises maggots…ahem, children and delights the inner child in the grown-ups, judging by the swells of laughter that filled the Cambridge Theatre tonight.

Dennis Kelly’s intelligent writing interweaves story lines elegantly, so that they twirl dreamily and effortlessly, much like a stunning acrobat I can imagine…(an inside reference to the show!) Tim Minchin’s score and lyrics are both clever and beautiful, although for me the soundtrack doesn’t have the memorable and catchy quality attributed to most musical theatre. 

Rob Howell’s incredible set is worth every ounce of praise (he has won 4 awards for his set design in Matilda, including a Tony and Olivier Award), and truly stole the show.  Hugh Vanstone’s effective lighting design did more than compliment Howell’s work, creating enchanting, visceral and amusing scenes throughout the performance, from the terrifyingly tangible Chokey to the laugh-out-loud extravagance of particular Trunchbull jokes.

Peter Darling’s expert choreography ensured full use of the set was made and the culmination of Minchin’s, Howell’s and Darling’s clever work in School Song deserves a standing ovation on its own. I would recommend sitting in the stalls to experience the full magic, as there is much activity in the aisles and at the sides. 

A special well done should go to the tenacious Tilly-Raye Bayer who played the eponymous Matilda tonight. All of the children brought an amazing energy and humour to the show, their individual style shining equally, even with the near scene-snatcher Bruce Bogtrotter (Louie Gray) giving us a bellyful of laughs. I suppose I ought to begrudgingly admit that their (on stage) pushy parents are correct and each and every one is a miracle.

Elliot Harper’s ferocious Miss Trunchbull pulled me from toe-curling repulsion to giddying hatred and at one point (although I hate to admit it) a heroic performance on a hobby horse left me feeling oddly stirred. Trunchbull’s heady reverie of a world with no children is delivered so vehemently by Harper in soul-felt speeches, ridiculous rules and painful punishments to cause truly uninhibited guffawing from child to adult alike. However, Harper wouldn’t allow his audience to enjoy even the briefest of endearing moments before cracking the whip of terror yet again and soaring to higher heights of horrid. Perfect comic timing and astute attention to character details, wrapped up in a more-than-ample bosom, resulted in a show-stealing performance. Absolutely, deliciously awful.

The Wormwoods were a gruesome pair, their garish costumes and untameable hair-do’s competing to sicken the audience most. The conniving, swindling and utterly nasty wretches showed no compassion to Matilda or to anyone else for that matter, unless money or television was involved.

Tilly-Raye as Matilda

The stupefying lack of brain cells and smarmy lies from both Mr and Mrs Wormwood (played by Sebastien Torkia and Marianne Benedict respectively) had the audience in stitches and both Benedict and Torkia were careful to make sure their screeching and slapstick elements didn’t teeter off the knife edge of farce into pantomime. Benedict’s talent sashayed around the stage during Loud, her voice belting whilst her hysterical dance partner Rudolpho was delivered passionately by Matt Krzan. Torkia’s wit and child-friendly clowning was gleefully entertaining and his audience interaction during the end of the interval subtly displayed his skill to be genuinely funny. 

Overall, Matilda’s strong moral compass navigates her under the bog of berating and negligent parents, over the hill of bully-induced despair, and through the haunted woods of scared, muted peers to lead her to triumph good over evil. Witty, wonderful and weird until the very end, Matilda champions bold imaginations, standing together and fighting for what is right – a powerful and much needed message of encouragement in our current social climate. All together now – we are revolting!

Author – Roald Dahl

Music and Lyrics – Tim Minchin

Director and Developer -Matthew Warchus

Illusion – Paul Kieve

Set and costume – Rob Howell

For booking information please go to Londonboxoffice.co.uk

For London dates and tour information information please go to the website

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