Roald Dahl’s Matilda has been adapted several times, including a 1996 movie of the same name. However, the latest musical streaming on Netflix boasts an ensemble cast of brilliant kids, Emma Thompson (the signature villain Miss Trunchbull), with intriguing choreography.
Roald Dahl was 72 when Matilda was published, a tale about a genius girl with telekinetic powers who wants to avenge the cruel school principal who throws kids out of the classroom window. A result of Dahl’s memory of his own British boarding school education, where the teachers beat the students, the musical was a true depiction of the same, with plenty of positive messages.
Adapting Matilda for the stage was no easy feat. It required smart decisions on the part of the director Matthew Warchus and the writer Dennis Kelly. Matilda (Alisha Weir) played her character with empathy, ferociously portraying a curious kid bursting with bright stories, trying to get back at the adults who have been unkind to her. Only 11 years old, when Weir sings, “Sometimes, you have to be a little bit naughty,” one almost believes that nothing is unreachable for her.
Matilda’s parents (essayed by Stephen Graham and Andrea Riseborough) are cheats. The school where Matilda is sent to hails the motto “Bambinatum est magitum” — “Children are maggots”. The principal is a definite monster. Discipline echoes from every child and wall of the school. A tad bit of kindness and sanity prevails in one teacher, Miss Honey (played by Lashana Lynch), who is too timid to stand up to bullying by her boss.
The music is the highlight, of course. Tim Minchin has done a marvellously witty job at writing the songs. Ellen Kane’s sharp-elbowed choreography is largely influenced by the movements of zombie hordes and dressage. For a musical that hinges on cruelty, one is surprised to find some remnants of loveliness, a silent hot air balloon in the clouds, a jazzy presentation of support for bullied class fellows, with a mild emphasis on fantasy where the headmistress wishes a better life in another world. The children vanish, white horses dominate the frame and for a minute second, we sympathise with the tyrant headmistress who could let her hair down and smile happily.
The two-hour musical is worth every minute. And it will transport you to the time when the movie was released.
Published in Dawn, Young World, February 4th, 2023
Dear visitor, the comments section is undergoing an overhaul and will return soon.