Roald Dahl’s books have remained timeless classics and after Charlie and the Chocolate Factory his book Matilda is just as popular. Having already been a film in 1996 it won awards galore as a musical stage show and in turn we now have Matilda the Musical…..the movie. Matilda is a lonely, unwanted daughter to a hideous pair of nouveau riche parents (Stephen Graham & Andrea Riseborough) more concerned with money than they are with her. In fact her father refuses to acknowledge that she‘s a girl continually referring to her as, ‘boy’ and keeping her locked in the attic that it’s a wonder that social services aren’t involved which makes up think this might be set in Islington. All of this lends a haunting quality to Tom Minchin’s score when Matilda sings, ‘When I grow up’. But the authorities do get involved concerned that she is not being home schooled as her parents purport to be doing, although in fairness Matilda is clearly light years ahead of many of today’s school kids who are adept at text messaging but puzzled at why the Anne Frank’s Diary is in non-text spelling .
Whisked off to a new school Crunchem Hall where headmistress Miss Trunchbull (a scene chewing Emma Thompson) rules with a rod of iron. Looking like a 1970’s era soviet athlete it turns out that she’s pretty adept at hammer throwing and here transposes a hammer for any schoolgirl with pigtails hurling them across the school yard into the bushes. Trunchbull’s unforgiving eagle eyes are always on the children even going as far as to monitor them on her own CCTV and as dedicated to oppressive rule and order as our own old gym teacher who was insistent that we would do sport in our underwear if we’d forgotten out kit – an example that he would set himself by doing the same if ever he forgot his own kit which strangely seemed to be everyday although none of us understood why he would run his lessons wearing a camisole and a g-string……but we digress.
Counter balancing Miss Trunchbull is Miss Honey (Lashana Lynch) a sensitive teacher who cares for those in her charge nurturing the children’s talents – she is the sort of teacher that every child remembers years after they left education. Kindness, Patience, Respect are her bywords (as well as likely names for the kids of a Hollywood actor). She is enamoured by Matilda’s storytelling skills that unknowingly reveal Miss Honey’s own personal history and ultimately reveals a tragic secret.
All of this is wrapped round Tim Minchin’s songs several of which are affecting notably ‘Holding my hand’ towards the end when Matilda finally finds some longed for parental style love. Having developed telekinetic skills in a small nod towards Stephen King’s ‘Carrie’, Matilda leads a campaign to overthrow the tyranny of Trunchbull a nightmarish vison bearing down on the children. Emma Thompson along with Stephen Graham and Andrea Riseborough revel in their roles as monstrous grotesques with brilliant costumes and Graham ‘s gleaming dentures are one of several highlights. Equally good is Alisha Weir as Matilda in what is a star making role for a precociously talented child that is matched by the rest of the cast of children, normally a red flag, but their performances in the song and dance routines especially are brilliantly and sharply executed meaning that Matilda the Musical is magnificent!
We chatted with Andrea Riseborough about her role as Matilda’s mum, Mrs Wormwood …..