Matilda the Musical review at Curve, Leicester – ‘still sublime’
A West End fixture at the Cambridge Theatre, Matilda now embarks on its first UK national tour. It remains every bit as pungent, pointed and outrageously enjoyable as it was when it first premiered at Stratford-upon-Avon under the auspices of the Royal Shakespeare Company as a Christmas show in 2010.
Based on Roald Dahl’s book about dealing with childhood terrors, from the perspectives of both the adult in the child and the child in the adult, it’s a grown-up show but is also full of childhood wonder.
Matthew Warchus’ peerless production, located in a wonderfully witty framework of coloured alphabet blocks by designer Rob Howell, is spectacularly staged. It feels both intimate and larger-than-life as we see the world through the unique prism of the older-than-her-years Matilda, a voracious reader and loner who is neglected by her parents.
She is played by one of an alternating set of four young actors; at the performance reviewed, Nicola Turner was astonishing in both her vulnerability and strength.
Carly Thoms is also quietly heartbreaking as Miss Honey, the teacher who mentors Matilda and has suffered her own emotional damage.
The other adult characters are more cartoonish in comparison. Craige Els – reprising the role of headmistress Miss Trunchbull – the part he previously played in the West End – brings ferocity and a knowing humour to the character. He has an Amazonian physical presence that’s imposing, but he also has a comic lightness of touch.
As Matilda’s parents, Rebecca Thornhill and Sebastien Torkia are playing comic caricatures, but they’re blissful in their awfulness. The same is true of Matthew Caputo, as Matilda’s slobbish older brother.
The expertly drilled cast of youngsters playing Matilda’s school friends are playful and bring an infectious sense of fun and jeopardy to a show that is full of both qualities.