‘Children are maggots.’
The interesting phrase was plastered on a mug in the gift shop of the Princess Theatre. I laughed and then, like the education student I am, imagined bringing that mug into my future classroom. Unsurprisingly, the phrase is Miss Trunchbull’s belief, and while I should probably strive to be more like Miss Honey, I can’t help but love the former due to Matilda the Musical.
We all know Matilda, whether it’s from the Roald Dahl novel or the 90s movie. So, just what does the musical do to build upon and bring life to the well-told story?
First is the emotional change. While the musical can be described as fun and comedic, unlike the novel it also contains bleakness, and the contrast between the two only serves to heighten it. As a whole, Matilda is an incredibly serious – and indeed sad – character, for good reason. Trapped in a home that doesn’t understand her brilliance, and in a school with a headmistress that does everything she can to squash it, it’s only natural that such a small child would feel the weight of these situations. To be blunt, watching this is often disheartening, but I believe it makes the just ending of the musical all the more important. Like Matilda, we’ve been forced to wait for it, and it’s damn nice when it comes.
But Matilda the Musical is far from all doom and gloom, also emulating the novel’s ridiculous nature. Labelled as a family musical, Matilda strives to make everybody laugh, from the youngest members of the audience to the grandparents taking them. The pranks pulled are loved by children (and me as well, don’t make me grow up yet), while the absurdity of the ways parents view their seemingly omnipotent children has the older audience members in tears. In my opinion, the best part is that the ‘adult’ jokes aren’t really obscene. Instead, they’re often a touch above the comprehension of children, but just as ridiculous as the other gags.
In terms of casting, I can’t envision anything better. The cast heavily consists of children, and they definitely hold their own in acting, singing and dancing. They fill each character with childishness, reminding me too easily of being in primary school. On the night I watched the musical, playing the star of the show, Matilda, was Alannah Parfett. Not once did she hesitate or stutter her lines, not to mention that her voice was incredible. Blown away by her performance, I’m only more impressed when I consider how complex and demanding the role is. Remaining in my memory most persistently, however, is James Millar’s Miss Trunchbull. The absolute madness of the headmistress is my favourite part of the show, and to act it out as seriously and dramatically as he does without fault was a pleasure to watch.
Lastly, the music. Creating a genius soundtrack obviously requires a genius, and the musical would not have been the same without Tim Minchin. The songs aren’t just catchy or fun; they’re damn clever. I think mostly of the lyrics to ‘School Song’, however as a whole, the music doesn’t fail to evoke the right mood from the audience, and it takes a very careful person to pull that off. Of course, the orchestra deserves as much praise as Minchin himself, consisting of just twelve members on 17 different instruments.
Do you want to laugh, cry and miss being a child? While being a university student guarantees all three, for a less stressful experience I highly recommend seeing Matilda the Musical.