‘Matilda The Musical’ is a total must watch

It is a lesson in the victory of good over evil

68-Matilda-The-Musical Good over evil: A scene from Matilda The Musical | Hanan Assor

Never before has the story of the fight against injustice―of free-spirited rebellion against bullying and shaming―been so impactful and poignant than when told by a young and spunky six-year-old girl who loves books.

Having read Matilda―the 1988 children’s novel by British author Roald Dahl―at an early age, I was always fascinated and inspired by Matilda, a smart but lonely school girl with secret X-Men-type superpowers, the clarity of her thought and the gumption to stand up to authority. So, watching Matilda The Musical, put together by The Royal Shakespeare Company, was a moving, nostalgic and a memorable experience.

The play opens with the famously enchanting number―‘My Mummy Says I'm a Miracle’―where pampered and happy children prance about joyfully at a birthday party, standing out starkly against the dark and obnoxious ma and pa of the story's titular and pint-sized lead, Matilda, who loathe her for being born a girl. They cannot fathom her affinity towards Bronte, Dickens, Dostoevsky, Eyre, all of who she finds more appealing than television. While that's the situation at home, her school is no better, run by the appalling, huge and grim Miss Trunchbull (James Wolstenholme), a hideous disciplinarian, who hates children, calls them maggots, grabs them by their pigtails and whirl them around their heads. Matilda, played by Donna Craig, seeks refuge in Miss Honey (Lashana Lynch)―a gentler and loving teacher at the school―who’s delighted to learn of Matilda's talent and abilities and nurtures her, in the face of parents who are uninterested.

The story is a lesson in the victory of good over evil, of faith over self-doubt, of love over hate, shown beautifully over the course of two-and-a-half hours, as Matilda liberates the school from Trunchbull’s tyranny and her ignorant parents hand her over under Miss Honey's care forever. The performance pulls one in, especially Matilda’s own talent for composition and storytelling, each time she starts inventing a story at the library which she frequents. Craig has pulled it off brilliantly as she essays the lead girl's mannerisms. This is accentuated further by fantastic sound and music that surrounds the audience inside the Nita Mukesh Ambani Cultural Centre’s (NMACC) The Grand Theatre and the stagecraft that is finely managed across seamlessly changing sets.

One thing I felt could have added to the experience was to have Trunchbull seem more menacing than she was in the character played by Emma Thompson. Every experience was beautifully captured for the stage. The lights, especially when they hit the eyes, was a put off, but at other times they added to the drama. At times I felt the accent was not clear enough for me to understand what was being said. Music is all-encompassing and inspiring with its scores, and a multitude of styles. My personal favourites were ‘Revolting Children’, and ‘When I Grow Up’, both hilariously lyrical. Everything was brilliant and worth gaping at―from the music to the costumes and set design.

Penned by the inimitable Dennis Kelly with original music and lyrics by comedian-songsmith Tim Minchin, Matilda The Musical, which plays till June 2 at NMACC, is a total must watch. Is it better than the book? Well, if the book led you to imagine Matilda's world, the play is the real manifestation of that imagination.