Matilda A Musical – The Courtyard Stratford Upon Avon

For the last 25years the RSC has been reaping financial rewards from the commercial success of Les Miserables. While never going to be on this scale, Matilda could prove to be an equally rewarding production as its life beyond Stratford seems assured.

Matilda A Musical may be aimed fairly and squarely at the Festive family market, however it’s a remarkably grown-up offering. While younger members of the audience will enjoy the anarchy and slapstick humour, adults can revel in the complex music and lyrics.

Dennis Kelly’s book and Tim Minchin’s music and lyrics take Roals Dahl’s original story of a young girl tormented by both her parents and a monstrous headmistress and give it their own dark twist.

Minchin’s score has enough runs the whole spectrum of musical theatre genres; we have moving arias, exuberant chorus numbers and even nods to Sondheim and Lloyd Webber. It’s a show that moves swiftly from over the top comedy numbers to gut wrenching self analysing solos. To pull off such musical complexity in any show would be impressive, but with many of these numbers performed by a young cast it is even more impressive, and I make no exception for the young company. They’re as pro as it gets.

Kerry Ingram (one of a rota of three Matildas) gives an incredible performance that belies her tender years. Here is a five-year-old Matilda going on 45. Both incredibly fragile but tempered with a steely determination, it is a performance that totally mesmerises.

Despite the impressive skills of the children, the adults just about manage hold their own. Josie Walker and Paul Kaye work well as Matilda’s grotesque parents, milking every single comedic drop from their vile characters. It is, however, Bertie Carvel’s transgendered Miss Trunchbull that almost steals the show away from Matilda. With echos of Alistair Sim’s St Trinian’s Miss Fritton, Trunchbull, the English Hammer Throwing Champion of 1969, is a child hating harridan who thinks nothing of swinging a girl by her pigtails or locking small children in cupboards. Carvel’s performance is a delight, building into a full gymnastic routine in an energetic The Smell of Rebellion.

Matthew Warchus’ direction is spot on while Peter Darling’s choreography adds plenty of youthful exuberance.

Matilda’s sold out run in Stratford may be coming to an end but her journey is far from over.

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