Theatre in Wales

Theatre, dance and performance reviews



Royal Shakespeare Company , Wales Millennium Centre , December-06-18
Matilda by Royal Shakespeare Company The first thing the hits you as you enter the centre’s wonderful Donald Gordon Theatre is Rob Howells equally remarkable set. Massive arches of books and boxes with letters on them giving us a flavour of Matilda’s love of reading. This Matilda, superbly played tonight by Scarlett Cecil, is much more than a reader. She sings and dances and wins our hearts right from the start.

She shares her singing and dancing with her classmates, played with equal verve tonight by Kit Swaddling, Ashton Murphy, Ilan Miller, Maddison Lowe, Georgia Mae Brown, Chantelle Tonolete and Jessica Chalmers. It’s a longish show and these young ‘chorus’ girls and boys keep up the excellence of their singing and the precision of their dancing right up to the very end. Our pulses are beating and our mouths are smiling as the joy takes over.

We first meet Matilda just after her birth and this is a disaster! Her father, Mr Wormwood wanted a boy. He’s only interested in boys. He’s a bit of a lad himself, a crafty second-hand car dealer. In his loud green and black check suit Sebastien Torkia perfectly captures this larger than life character. But later we find that Matilda is up to him. He doesn’t even take a break. In the interval his does a spot of persuasive Stand Up that almost wins us over to his side.

His wife, also a bit of girl hater, totally devoted to herself and to her preoccupation with ballroom dancing, she appears dress ready for Strictly throughout. Rebecca Thornhill gives a very bright and lively performance. She also has Rudolpho, all in black, a louche partner, well realised by Matt Gillett, lurking in the background.

As Matilda grows she becomes an avid reader and regular visitor to the library. She is given great encouragement by the lady librarian, who always asks Matilda to read a story to her. Michelle Chantelle Hopewell also gives us a very lively upbeat performance.

In the classroom, frequently used for a bit of dancing and rioting we meet two very contrasting characters. The ‘villain’ of the piece, Head Mistress Miss Trunchbull, Craige Els brings her to life with just the right touch of humour and menace but the kids are soon up to her and work out a plan.

The other is a quiet teacher who likes Matilda very much and encourages her to continue her reading.

Up to this point we have met a number of very entertaining, larger than life characters. With a quiet excellence Carly Thoms brings a touch of real life to the gentle Miss Honey. However she can burst into some strong singing when the narrative requires.

The charm, the humour, the singing and the dancing joyously continue their way through. There’s some excitement with some acrobats, played out mostly by shadow projections on a screen.

We first hear of the Escapologist in one of Matilda’s stories but suddenly Steffan Lloyd-Evans brings him determinedly to life. He’s Miss Trunchbull’s nephew and he has come to sort her out. It’s a short appearance, he goes to search her out but he never comes back. She’s off herself very soon after. There’s some funny business about a will and a ghost pops up and away she goes.

Mr Wormwood announces they are going to go to Spain. Matilda’s not very keen. We soon find out why he wants to dash off. He’s too late. The Russian Mafia who bought his worn out cars has come to get their money back and worse. Matilda steps in and again with her quiet charm persuades them to let her father of the hook.

There is a quiet and beautiful ending. Just before we go we visit a park, the scene changes throughout are minimal. The park with its slide is a good example. As the children swing out we swing with them in our seats. Captured again by the wonderment of this totally sparkling production.

Continues ‘til 12 January

Reviewed by: Michael Kelligan

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