Matilda, Cambridge Theatre, review: ‘still going strong in its fifth year’

The RSC company production of Matilda the Musical. Picture: Manuel Harlan

The RSC company production of Matilda the Musical. Picture: Manuel Harlan - Credit: Archant

Now in its fifth year, the RSC’s offbeat but entertaining adaptation of Roald Dahl’s tale is still going strong.

The wonder is that a potentially disturbing story of two psychologically abused young girls is a West End hit at all.

But under Matthew Warchus’ inspired direction, Tim Minchin’s memorable tunes and clever lyrics, and Dennis Kelly’s thoughtful book pulls off a winning blend of the sad, funny, moving, and ultimately uplifting.

From the opening number of a children’s party for pampered ‘little miracles’ to a glorious phys ed class with battleaxe headmistress Miss Trunchbull (a marvellous hammer throwing comedy goldmine of a baddie) and a ballroom dancing number, the enjoyable full cast set pieces play out on Rob Howell’s set of multicoloured letters, book stacks and schooldesks that rise out of the floor.

Interspersed are quieter moments as the gifted but misunderstood five year old Matilda is horribly treated by her neglectful parents yet is determined not to be put down.

They send her to Miss Trunchbull’s school where discipline, punishment and prison are her watchwords. But the little girl takes comfort from kindly teacher Miss Honey, her fellow pupils and visits to the library where she tells stories to librarian Miss Phelps.

The story within a story – told through puppetry - of two circus performers whose lives are ruined by a cruel relative has a poignant pay-off, while playing with notions of narrative and the idea of taking control of our own stories.

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On our performance Zaris Angel-Hator made a tiny but feisty Matilda who uses her telekinetic powers to best the bullying Trunchbull.

But credit should go to the entire child cast who performed with great energy and talent.

Being seated on the back row of the dress circle left me feeling somewhat distant from the action and facial expressions but my often restless seven-year-old was totally entranced and the extra leg room and end of row position meant he didn’t disturb theatregoers around us. After the show we submitted a seat review to which gives useful guidance to West End theatregoers when booking often pricey West End seats.


Cambridge Theatre

Four stars