MATILDA ROLE GETS UN­DER SKIN

Southern Gazette (South Perth) - - LIFESTYLE -

MU­SIC theatre per­former James Mil­lar felt claus­tro­pho­bic dur­ing his first cos­tume fit­ting for Miss Agatha Trunch­bull in Aus­tralian pro­duc­tion Matilda the Mu­si­cal.

“I was a lit­tle pan­icked by it; it’s ex­tremely heavy and hot, but once you start to get used to a new body it’s like a sec­ond skin,” Mil­lar said.

“I learned ways of man­ag­ing to cool my­self down with an ice vest, but to start with it was very con­fronting.

“I also wor­ried that it would swal­low up the per­for­mance but I’m James un­til all that gets put on (suit, cos­tume, wig, moles and make-up) and then I’m her; it’s a lovely way to es­cape into a role.”

Mil­lar, who grad­u­ated from WAAPA in 2004, has re­turned to join an elite male-only list of ac­tors who have played Miss Trunch­bull since the mu­si­cal opened in Strat­ford-up­onAvon in 2009.

Per­form­ing as Trunch­bull was about find­ing the qual­ity in­side the monster rather then send­ing her up for laughs.

“It wasn’t about putting on a funny walk or do­ing a funny voice, it was about find­ing those qual­i­ties of jeal­ousy and re­sent­ment and bit­ter­ness and treat­ing her as a char­ac­ter who had dra­matic pur­pose,” he said.

“So that you weren’t go­ing out there and be­ing a pan­tomime ham, in­stead you take it back to the qual­i­ties that are ev­i­dent in the story.

“She’s highly jeal­ous and re­sent­ful to­wards life, to­wards her sis­ter, to what life gave her and a char­ac­ter who is that jeal­ous and re­sent­ful to peo­ple as young and in­no­cent as chil­dren in­forms a whole lot about how she grew up and the sort of per­son she’s grown in to; a true bully.”

Mil­lar said he re­mem­bered be­ing scared of Miss Trunch­bull when he read Road Dahl’s Matilda as a child and Dahl’s “dark, won­der­ful” books were on par with the Harry Pot­ters and Lemony Snick­ets of to­day.

“There was al­ways some­thing so scary, won­der­ful, mag­i­cal and em­pow­er­ing about a kid stand­ing up to a bully,” he said.

“So if I get to be the bully in or­der to get to tell the story about a kid stand­ing up to a one, then so be it. It’s more about the whole story rather than a de­sire to be mean to chil­dren.”

Tanya MacNaughton

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