Summoning old memories, The Cambridge Theatre showcases a stunning rendition of Roald Dahl’s classic tale; Matilda. Taking a classic and landing it smack-bang in the present, the production employs the use of updated slang (“didn’t I just tell you she’s a gangster”) and recent literary sources, (Matilda reads Lord Of The Rings) to make the story funnier and more relatable to today’s audience.
Brilliance shining out of every nook and cranny the production is equally funny and sad, making you laugh wholeheartedly out loud, while still managing to be thoroughly thought provoking. Causing an enlightened audience to nudge and whisper before tumbling excitedly out of the auditorium, bustling with feel-good vibes.
This is due largely to Tim Minchin’s music, which, full of heart lifting optimism and witty lyrics exemplify what musicals are supposed to be. Rather than (what often feels to be) haphazardly thrown in songs, the music in Matilda adds to the humour, to the depth, to our understanding of the characters and to the point of the story, rather than awkwardly balancing like a misplaced Christmas ornament.
Highlighting slightly worrying realities such as the world’s obsession with television, Matilda’s family criticizes her love for reading, much preferring to sit staring at a television screen. There is even a song about how amazing TV is. And in a world where libraries are being closed down left, right and center, perhaps there is no better time to remind us of the magic that books encompass.
The juxtaposition between Matilda’s unfortunate upbringing and what a child’s young life should be is sprung instantly onto the audience with the opening number. Cute kids sing, “my mummy says I’m a miracle,” twirling and curtseying and warming hearts as only children can, before an as of yet unborn Matilda is lamented in the hospital as the mother-to-be moans; “I should not be in this hospital with a smarting front bottom.”
Cleo Demetriou, the actress who played Matilda on the night (there are a number of actresses who rotate) is thoroughly endearing, not to mention impressive. At the tender age of (not more than 12) the lead character acts impeccably, sucking the audience into her world, strength and courage portrayed with every fling of the hand and every beautifully sang song.
Portraying the importance and transforming powers of the imagination, the gap between the two shrinks as the night progresses, the link between reality and what is false lessening with every uttered strength and made-up-story that departs Matilda’s lips.
The message that you can control your own story, and that strength can defeat the bullies is embedded in every clenched fist and brave smile that imparts Matilda’s face. And is there any better lesson, or any better way to teach the often-disillusioned individuals of today?