There’s good and bad news regarding Matilda, the RSC Christmas show.
The good news: this is the best children’s musical for many a year, and is equally entertaining for adults. The bad? It’s only on until January 30.
Based on Roald Dahl’s book, it’s fast paced, gleefully nasty, and devoid of soppy sentiment.
Matilda is a little girl who loves literature and tears through books at a pace. She should be a delight to her family and school. Unfortunately she’s surrounded by philistines.
Mum and dad are disgusted their little monster is wasting her time reading Nicholas Nickleby, when she could be zombified in front of the telly.
The brutish headmistress at school, Miss Trunchbull, is convinced the bright scholar is a troublemaker.
But Matilda is no passive victim. She devises plenty of sneaky tricks to revenge herself on her enemies.
Everything in this production is larger than life, and as dazzling as a Pop Art masterpiece.
All performances are spiky and special. Bertie Carvel, as the hideous shot-putter and head teacher, Miss Trunchbull, is the stuff of nightmares.
An even more frightening monster is brought to mind by Josie Walker’s portrayal of Matilda’s mother, Mrs Wormwood. With her hideous dress sense and grating voice, she could easily be that modern day renaissance woman, Katie Price.
Paul Kaye brings ferocious energy to the role of Mr Wormwood, and Lauren Ward introduces tenderness to the harsh fable as Miss Honey, one of the few rays of light in Matilda’s life.
A musical is nothing without music, of course.
And Tim Minchin’s songs are blessed with memorable melodies and a plethora of witty words.
Matilda should be like a puppy, not just for Christmas.
Rating * * * * *
(At the Royal Shakespeare Company until January 30)