THERE’S a tangible poignancy in the air as Matilda: The Musical opens at the WMC.
It stems from the fact that this stunning theatrical adaptation of Roald Dahl’s much-loved book is reborn in the city of the writer’s birth as part of its first UK tour – a stone’s throw from the Norwegian Church where the Cardiff-born writer was baptised.
Matilda Wormwood is an extraordinary little girl with a vivid imagination and sharp mind, whose talents are constantly belittled by her cruel parents and a tyrannical headmistress.
Deciding that “sometimes you’ve got to be a little bit naughty”, she dares to take a stand against them and takes her destiny into her own hands.
What unfolds is a magical feast for eyes, ears and heart – and you soon realise why this production has been called the best British musical of the past decade.
As you enter the auditorium you are immediately taken by the imposing and elaborately designed stage set, which sets the tone for the breathtaking production values boasted by this show.
The ensemble child cast are simply wonderful, hugely talented and endlessly endearing – and in Scarlett Cecil (as Matilda) the show has a lead whose performance is nothing less than awe-inspiring.
In tribute to the vivacity of Dahl’s characters, the animated cast take on an almost cartoon-like quality, and nowhere more so than in the villains of the piece – Mr Wormwood (Sebastien Torkia) and Miss Trunchbull (Craige Els).
Two of the finest larger-than-life roles ever seen on stage, their presence is a riot of physical comedy, hyperactive theatrics and high camp.
Coupled with incredible choreography that pushes the show to an altogether different dimension and Tim Minchin’s wonderfully expressive music, there aren’t enough superlatives to do this production justice.
In the season of childlike wonder, Matilda is a show that inspires the imagination and provokes wonderment at every turn.
Roald Dahl would have very much approved. David Owens