REVIEW: Matilda The Musical, Mayflower, Southampton, until July 6.
The devotees will know, of course, just what a fantastic show Matilda The Musical is. The rest of us, the first-timers, get the joy of discovery – a show huge on imagination, superbly staged and great fun throughout.
Roald Dahl’s tale of an extraordinary girl who tackles cruelty and meanness head on, uncovering a foul crime along the way, is beautifully realised with book by Dennis Kelly and original songs by Tim Minchin, complete with that characteristic Minchin twist.
The children Matilda meets up with, and of course Matilda herself, are simply terrific, the oppressed victims of the ghastly Miss Trunchbull’s tyranny.
And what a performance Elliot Harper gives as the dreaded Miss T, simply oozing villainy and nastiness, all the while mixing it up with perfect comic timing to give us precisely the kind of monster only Dahl could possibly conceive.
At the opposite end of the scale is the peachy, completely impoverished Miss Honey, Carly Thoms exuding sweetness without ever being sickly, a teacher convinced that respect and kindness are the way ahead – and a teacher immediately drawn to the remarkable little girl who comes into her classroom.
Sebastien Torkia and Rebecca Thornhill offer plenty of laughs as poor Matilda’s ghastly parents, particularly funny with their horror of books. Just like Miss Trunchbull, they see them as revolting.
But in Dahl’s world, story-telling and vivid imagination are where the power lies – and you just long for the come-uppance you know the baddies are hurtling towards.
Maybe the songs are songs you need to hear a couple of times to really get – at times the lyrics were just a little difficult to catch. Peter Darling’s superb choreography is perhaps the greater pleasure, all the children responding with huge expression and complete synchronisation.
The result is a show which matches the huge expectations it throws out before it – a show which makes you immediately want to see it again. There’s so much happening, so much to see – not least the children’s brilliant, super-confident performances.