Matilda the Musical Review | Palace Theatre | Manchester
“The only sensible thing to do when you are attacked is, as Napoleon once said, to counter-attack.” Roald Dahl, Matilda
Roald Dahl’s empowering fantasy following a telekinetic five-year-old with a love of reading continues to place among his top five highest selling books. Not an easy feat, as the novelist’s collection of 48 books have seen him ranked as one of the nation’s favourite writers, with his own day of celebration (13th September). Matilda’s strength and endurance appear to lie with her quiet gift to protect the helpless. Thoughtfully standing up to power against vicious and prejudicial attacks. It is a message that bears repeating. Alongside Quentin Blake’s quirky illustrations, Matilda’s girl power narrative brought magical possibilities to young adults without belittling them. In supporting the voiceless without patronising them, Matilda has made its transition to the stage with swift success, packing theatres with audiences of all ages who can appreciate her vigilante justice.
The young heroine fights back against the whims of her parents who state "looks is more important than books" and her Olympic hammer-throwing headmistress Miss Trunchbull, whose contentious punishments are taken straight from the pages and jaw-droppingly placed onto the stage.
The fan favourite is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, and after its Olivier and Tony award-winning musical premiered in 2010 there are plans to see it converted into a film in the future. Matilda’s appeal is timeless and the playful musical tweaks little from its original book. Story writer, Dennis Kelly and lyricist Tim Minchin have joyously captured the mood of Dahl, using revolting wordplay and moving realism to form a freeing theatrical production.
The story, produced by the Royal Shakespeare Company and directed by Matthew Warchus offers lavish designs that spring shadow puppetry, a live orchestra and non-stop choreography onto the scene. The show packs a punch with a flurry of action carried on the tiniest of shoulders. Although the hugely talented cast of fantastical proportions sing an array of memorable songs, Matilda (played by Sophia Ally) is sensational. Ally not only brought a clear sense of being the smartest person in the theatre, but her impeccable timing shaped the beautiful slow-moving story between Mrs. Phelps, the Acrobat and Escapologist that plays between the showier songs.
Cruelly treated, Matilda forges her own path, inspiring children (and let’s face it, adults) with her spellbinding world of catchy tunes, stylised sets and undeniable cuteness. The fearless production breathes life into the pages and brings the immersive and adventurous world of Dahl in kaleidoscope tones. A musical that marries the sickly sweet, sugar high of Willy Wonka and the spellbinding magic of The Witches is not to be missed.