The actually quite precocious Matilda was my childhood dream book that I read over and over again. The wonderful advertising and positive reviews convinced us to book the tickets.
Seeing the musical has fairly much convinced me of two things.
1. I am definitely no longer a child, although being silly remains a favourite pass time.
2. Musicals just don’t do it for me anymore.
I am sad about both. There was a time when the trip up to London on the train was the epitome of adventure and novelty, with those huge wallet sized train tickets that came in the post and a shiny programme full of pictures of the Real Life Actors. Now London is the Big City I traverse on my own and musicals are just a bit too escapist; sing-song; false entertainment. In light of this, however, I will review Matilda as though I were still a child who adored musicals.
The Cambridge Theatre certainly has the sweetest situation, on a teeny tiny roundabout with three or four taxis swinging around it and a medley of tourists seeking their musical-mekkah. With the Christmas lights still up it was quaint and picture perfect. My friends and I amused ourselves with the chalk and blackboards adorning the foyer walls. This took me back to a time before plastic whiteboards and now electric pens that write ‘virtually’; gone are the days of shuddering at the squeaking on the blackboard and dusty dusty fingers…
The set is just ingenious – a kind Scandivian-esque pale wood floor, from which pop desks, a bathroom…. oh just about anything they need. And book shelves that magically change configuration like the stair cases in Harry Potter. An array of colouring-pencil colours hits the stage with lights and lit up letters. A flurry of dancing kids, the littlest ones just so cute – but oh so precocious Lavender stole the show for me. Sure, Matilda had a great voice and sweet ballads. Miss Honey is ever so kindly, the perfect primary school teacher we all wish we had had: pretty, blonde, bespectacled and innocently dressed. The librarian has brilliant comic-timing, as Matilda keeps on postponing her story told with two rag doll puppets.But Lavender who arrests Matilda as her bestest friend ever and just HAS to tell us her newt plan, the whole of it, is sparky and witty and wins best actress for me.
To be honest, catchy songs are few and far between. In my flat we had a spontaneous Wicked singalong for a good hour. That’s not going to happen with Matilda. The opening dragged a little with the song, ‘My mummy says I’m a miracle child…’ because it was not quite stereotypical enough to be hilariously cute, nor appealing enough a song to just sit back and listen. The dance routine seemed too staged; too rehearsed and false. It’s a shame because I’d dearly love to dish out all of the praises on this play.
It’s not a show to see on a one night visit to London, a first date or with sulky, rebellious teens. Nevertheless, take the children, take grannie with you and enjoy their laughter. Or for a bit of harmlessly fun nostalgia, go.