Printable CopyMATILDA
Royal Shakespeare Company
Adelaide Festival Theatre
Until 16 Jul 2017

Review by Kylie Pedler

“Matilda” the musical is spellbinding storytelling to entertain adult and child alike!

As Roald Dahl’s book of the same name, first released in 1988, has entertained parents and children alike for generations, this is a modern musical certain to be praised for years to come. It channels the uncanny magic of Roald Dahl through words and song (Dennis Kelly and Tim Minchin), magical child-spinning special effects, computer game lighting effects (Hugh Vanstone) and Scrabble-like set, covered in books and floating letters (Rob Howell).

The story and themes are as relevant as when they were first conceived. As a child prodigy, misunderstood by her self-obsessed parents, the show’s protagonist, Matilda (played by a rotating cast of four) finds her first friend in Librarian Miss Phelps who introduces her to the world of books and adores listening to her stories. At school her kind-hearted teacher sees her potential and encourages her to develop intellectually. Today the character of Matilda is almost revolutionary again—valuing the book—in a world where children spend more time on technological devices, rather than watching telly and being active. The theme of bullying is dominant, much like the reality of today where it is said to be prevalent in the classroom and social media. However, the show also has a resounding message of growth mindset and findings one’s inner strength.

Matilda, played by Izellah Connelly on opening night, stole the show and the hearts of the audience, evident in the standing ovation she received during the bows. As a singer, she is eloquent. As a storyteller she is mesmerising, holding not only Miss Phelps but the whole audience on the edge of their seat waiting to hear the end of the acrobat and escapologist’s story. As portrayed so beautifully in the solo “Quiet”, Connelly is the quiet in the eye of the storm—the centrepiece within a magnitude of talent.

Matilda’s classmates are a group of multi-talented young performers. On opening night, Dominic Ambrose (cake-stealing Bruce Bogtrotter) performed an entertaining “Bruce” and outstanding vocal solo in “Revolting Children” while Alice Lowther as Matilda’s best friend Lavender told an extravagant story with great mischievous antics about a planned trick with a newt. “When I grow up” is staged like a huge playground with the cast entering on a slide at the back of the set and taking to highflying swings that reach out across the audience while singing stunning harmonies.

Hats off to Jess Chambers, voice and dialect coach, who has ensured that the young cast has impeccable clarity and diction in both their monologues and songs. Peter Darling’s choreography is energetic and performed with flawless unity and strength.

Lucy Maunder as Miss Honey reflects the kind-hearted teacher with a raw vulnerability and sings an exquisite “My House” which pulls at the heart strings. Leah Lim is captivating as the Librarian Mrs Phelps.

Miss Trunchbull (James Millar) is a magnified replica of Quentin Blake’s illustrations of the monstrous headmistress. Millar demonstrates supremacy not only over the children he considers to be “maggots”, but also the stage due to his oversized grotesque physique which puts him in hilarious situations at every turn. His cabaret-style kicking in “The smell of Rebellion” was a highlight. Other key comical moments are provided by Matilda’s family; grotesque parents, Mr and Mrs Wormwood (Daniel Frederiksen and Marika Aubrey) and her lazy almost mute brother (Daniel Raso).

Adelaide provides the stage for this fabulous musical for a very short time so get your tickets: you won’t be disappointed.