Review: Matilda The Musical at Bristol Hippodrome
"Sometimes you've got to be a little bit naughty" says Matilda, the extraordinarily clever heroine at the heart of one of Roald Dahl's best-loved books. First published just over thirty years ago, it is a story with timeless appeal, as five year old Matilda decides to take a stand against the horrible grown-ups who are making her life a misery.
It must be a daunting task to take such a popular novel and adapt it for the stage but you know you're in safe hands with the Royal Shakespeare Company. It was Roald Dahl's estate who initially approached the RSC back in 2003, as they thought they would bring just the right mix of 'mischief and bookishness' to the show, and how right they were. Since its debut performance in 2010, Matilda The Muscial has won 94 international awards, including 23 for Best Musical, and the show has been seen by 9 million people worldwide.
It's now Bristol's turn to receive this award-winning show as the UK & Ireland tour hits the stage at Bristol Hippodrome for the next month. Swinging pigtails, newts in water jugs, and chalk with a life of its own are all familiar scenes taken from the book, and my son was absolutely mesmerised as some clever special effects meant they came to life on stage. As with most adaptations, there are some differences from the original story too, but they worked well, aided by the superb modern lighting and set design.
The role of Matilda is shared by four different girls, and no wonder, as this is a demanding part. On the night we attended, it was the turn of Olivia Juno Cleverley and I can't quite believe this is her professional debut. She was outstanding, always commanding the stage as she played the determined schoolgirl with just the right amount of sass, and she thoroughly deserved her individual standing ovation. Charlie Garton as chocolate cake eating Bruce and Lily Van Veen as Matilda's best friend Lavender also deserve special mentions, but all the children in the cast were fantastic, as they sang and danced their hearts out whilst navigating the perils of life at Crunchem Hall.
Carly Thoms was a delight and just how I imagined Miss Honey to be, playing the innocent and kind teacher with a quiet air of sadness. The Wormwoods have a bigger role in the show than they do in the book, and they provide some laugh out loud moments with Rebecca Thornhill and Sebastien Torkia seeemingly relishing their roles as Matilda's really stupid parents.
And what about The Trunchbull? Well, Elliot Harper absolutely nails it. He is quite terrifying as the menacing headmistress and once again, the costume design means he looks the part with hunched shoulders and rather strange proportions, just as the great illustrator Quentin Blake first drew the cruel character all those years ago.
Tim Minchin's fantastic music adds to the sense of fun, with sixteen well-timed and really catchy songs enhancing the storyline. I particularly enjoyed When I Grow Up and Revolting Children which were sung by the whole company.
Verdict: This is a delightfully fun and heartwarming show which more than does justice to the famous book. But I think I'll leave it to my own little maggot to sum it up best: "It's amazing! The best show I've ever seen!"
Matilda The Musical is playing at The Bristol Hippodrome until Saturday 8th June 2019. You can book tickets here.
Disclaimer: I was offered two complimentary tickets in return for an honest review. All thoughts are my own. Photo credits: Manuel Harlan.