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Isabella James

Second Look: MATILDA at Cambridge Theatre, London

Matilda The Musical Now in its eighth year in London’s West End, Matilda the Musical has brought in some new cast members to tell the story of Roald Dahl’s popular child genius and does so in a rather ingenious way. Adapted for the stage by Dennis Kelly, with music and lyrics from the Australian comedian Tim Minchin, this musical has been a massive success since it opened at the RSC in 2010.

The cast is made up of both adults and children and the show opens with an ode to the miracle of birth. Mrs Wormwood, played brilliantly by Marianne Benedict, is not so enthusiastic about her little miracle and so Matilda doesn’t get the best start in life. Her parents hurl abuse at her and discourage her from reading, claiming it’s not normal to read books when you could be watching the telly instead. Matilda finds sanctuary when she starts school and she forms a bond with her teacher Miss Honey. Together, along with her new classmates, they take on the evil headmistress Miss Trunchball proving themselves to be truly ‘Revolting Children’.

The show was an absolute pleasure to behold. The visual elements of the staging and set are stunning and really tie in with the Quentin Blake illustrations we have all come to associate with Dahl’s stories. Letters, words and books make up the various locations of the play and there is a whole sequence that combines a visual alphabet with the lyrics to a song. The timing and pace of the musical meant there was never a dull moment and children in the audience were loving every second.

Matilda, played on this particular night by Tilly-Raye Bayer (in rotation with Olivia Juno Cleverley, Alex Munden, and Zoe Simon) sang, danced and acted every note, beat and moment perfectly. There was also plenty of talent amongst the other young actors who were constantly carrying the story through tight choreography and tricky vocals whilst also providing many of the funniest moments. Elliot Harper plays the evil Agatha Trunchball and delivers a brilliant comedic performance both vocally and through his bizarre physicality.

The music and lyrics are extremely clever and there is a reason why children all around the world have learnt every single word. There are moments of great sadness and tenderness, a beautifully touching song about ideas of growing up for example, but also some really genius stage magic which would make even Matilda wonder how they did it!