Content on this page requires a newer version of Adobe Flash Player.

Get Adobe Flash player




A review by Vanessa Bunn for EXTRA! EXTRA!




Royal Shakespeare Company presents


Roald Dahl's Matilda the Musical


Book by Dennis Kelly


Music and Lyrics by Tim Minchin


Directed by Matthew Warchus


Choreography by Peter Darling


Set and Costume Design by Bob Howell


Cambridge Theatre


18 Oct 2011 - 12 Feb 2012



Fresh from adding “Best Musical” at the Evening Standard Theatre Awards 2011 to numerous other accolades, The Royal Shakespeare Company's glorious adaptation of Roald Dahl's Matilda is now gracing the boards of the Cambridge Theatre in London's West End. The set captivates and titillates as a seemingly endless source of majestic scenes and effects. Interchangeable screens envelop a limitlessly inventive cast as they illustrate the ultimate tale of determination in the face of adversity. Fantastic music and lyrics by Tim Minchin and book by Dennis Kelly propel this telling into the realm of wonderment it inhabits. The music is lively and sombre by turns and emanates from a faultless orchestra concealed in the wings, directed by Bruce O'Neil. Lighting design by Hugh Vanstone enhances every surprise.

Matilda documents the torments of a young girl with extremely unfortunate parentage and a magnificent mind, capable of much more than anyone imagines. Her school days, under the affectionate guidance of Miss Honey (Lauren Ward) are illustrated alongside her troubled life at home where she is bullied and cast aside. Her escapes to the library become key to her well being and the stories she invents there might finally facilitate her escape from the drudgery of the Wormwood household, which is presented as being entirely devoid of creativity.

Multi Olivier Award-winning Rob Howell yet again renders an audience's imagination captive with a set one could scarcely dream up, filled with tricks and surprises. Building blocks and scrabble tiles, which spell out seminal words from the story, adorn the stage-surround. The library of Matilda's endearing and enduring friend Mrs Phelps (Melanie La Barrie) is an imposing and surreal creation and Matilda often carries a neatly tied pile of white books from it. When we visit Miss Honey's (Lauren Ward) humble abode, the countryside invades the stage and her remote surrounding make her lonely existence all the more affecting.

The costumes are numerous and delightful. The school uniforms and matching satchels that the children wear complete a comic portrayal of regularity which initiates the drudgery of the school commanded by Miss Trunchbull (Bertie Carvel). In Carvel's spirited portrayal Trunchbull is utterly repellent and at the same time hilarious, winning as many adult fans as juvenile enemies. The grind which Trunchbull enforces is frequently interrupted by the ingenious pursuits of Matilda and her peers. This culminates in some of the most entertaining and infectious songs in the production like “The Hammer” and “The Smell of Rebellion”.

Matilda's awful, yet amusing parents are dressed in the most wonderfully gaudy way imaginable; Mr Wormwood (Paul Kaye) would fit right in on the set of Tim Burton's Beetlejuice and this also serves to indicate a more sinister side to a character who refuses to acknowledge his only daughter's gender and takes pleasure in depriving her of her beloved books. Mrs Wormwood's (Josie Walker) outfit is almost as outrageous as that of her Italian dance partner Rudolpho (Gary Watson) whose ethnic authenticity is comically challenged by Matilda's intellect.

Matilda will be alternatively played by four young actresses for the duration. Eleanor Worthington Cox delighted with a compelling performance which wholly encapsulated the naïve and naughty, tormented and honest character of Matilda. She especially glistened in her telling of the tragic love-story of an acrobat and escapologist which becomes incredibly poignant as the story progresses. The supporting cast were led by the affectionate and comically confident Lavender (Ellie Simons), Matilda's self-proclaimed best friend.

Though the show's appeal is absolutely not limited to children's entertainment, with all its glorious peculiarities and nuances, I will give the last word to a fellow audience member of significantly fewer years than myself who managed a wonderful assessment at the end of the show when words had long since failed me; “Wow! That was magnificent.” she exclaimed as the show closed to an audience on their feet in rapturous applause. Hear, Hear.



Box Office: 0844 800 1110
Cambridge Theatre
Seven Dials, 32-34 Earlham Street, London WC2H 9HU
Ticket Prices: Stalls £59.50, £49.50, Dress Circle £59.50, Upper Circle £39.50, £29.50, £25, £20
Group Rates:10+ Group Rate £45 - Group Bookings: 0844 412 4650
Education Rates: 10+ School Group Rate £25 - Discounts available Tuesday – Thursday evenings and Wednesday matinees - Education Bookings: 0844 800 1113

Copyright © EXTRA! EXTRA All rights reserved