When I was seven or eight years old, I got Matilda from the local library. I often took weeks to finish reading books, but I remember Roald Dahl’s 1988 novel – about the little girl with special abilities emotionally abused by her parents – being the first one I couldn’t put down, so I was very excited to see this sell-out performance.
The first thing that struck me was that the scenery was so well done. It was simple but effective, exactly what scenery should be for a show like this.
It starts with a great opening featuring the number Miracle, where the ensemble sing about how their parents think they are a miracle. I hope the parents of all the cast members are proud of their miracles as it was one of the best shows I’ve seen at South Mill Arts.
In Naughty, our heroine sings how you “mustn’t let a little thing like little stop you” – never has a lyric been so poignant. Little Sophie Budd as Matilda had a giant stage all to herself and she filled it: a fantastic performer who played the character exactly as I had imagined when I was a little girl.
I always hoped I would have a teacher like Miss Jennifer Honey, and Evelyn Vascan’s compassionate and gentle performance showed why. She is kind and mentors Matilda through the difficult relationships around her. Evelyn got this spot on.
It wouldn’t be a good story if there wasn’t a suitable antagonist. Child-hating headmistress Miss Trunchbull was played by the extraordinarily talented Declan Jones. This young man mastered all the mannerisms of this evil bully and his comic timing was on point, something some professionals never achieve.
As always, behind every fantastic performance is a superb creative team. The projection really helped bring the story alive. The choreography was great and the children had obviously worked very hard to get it exactly right. It was clear a lot of passion and dedication went into this production from every angle.
The hour-long performance went by too quickly. I wanted it to keep going. Just like Emily Abbotts as Mrs Phelps, the librarian, I wanted more and more of the story. I cannot mention every single performer as I don’t have space but they were all so talented.
Miss Trunchbull sings “if you want to make the team, you don’t need happiness or self-esteem”. This production proves this is not true. All of these children beamed with pride and were so obviously happy and confident to be part of something so special.
* There were three performances of Matilda at South Mill Arts over Sunday and Monday, March 27-28. Reviewer LucyKate Newland saw the Sunday 3pm show.