“I think theatre should always aim to make its audience laugh and cry, unless there’s a really good reason why not. Stories are best when they are a bit like roller coasters, with highs and lows, twists and turns, a good bit of fear and the significant risk that someone might vomit. Matilda has all these things, making it the perfect story for a stage musical.”
-Tim Minchin, wrote the music & lyrics for Matilda The Musical.
Yesterday, my daughter and I finally went to see Matilda The Musical at Sydney’s Lyric Theatre, Darling Harbour. It is based on Roald Dahl’s Matilda while Dennis Kelly wrote the book for Matilda The Musical and Tim Minchin wrote the music and lyrics.
We absolutely LOVED IT!
Indeed, we loved it SO MUCH that we’ve bought the CD, musical score, the Matilda Doll, T shirts and even a T towel. It was absolutely sensational…clever, heart-breaking, funny, entertaining and then there were the special effects. They were a show in themselves, even including laser. Wow!
Anyway, while I’m waiting for the performance to start, Miss is absorbed in the set. The stage is framed by a kind of blackboard with Scrabble-like letters stuck haphazardly on it in a myriad of sizes and fonts. At first, they appeared quite random but Miss is sitting there picking out words, having great fun. That was an unexpected bonus and I guess that pretty much summed up Matilda. It was full of unexpected twists and turns along with spectacular effects, lighting. The whole package was so incredibly dynamic.
Of course, how you respond to any performance isn’t just about what is projected onto you but also about how it connects with your experience and who you are as a person.
What it means to you.
Naturally, I couldn’t watch Matilda without projecting her onto my daughter. Although she doesn’t have Matilda’s genius, she loves reading and is smart. However, the most pertinent similarity was their size. Miss is quite small for her age and Matilda is small in a world of sinister, ginormous adults.
Matilda… “if you’re little you can do a lot…”
You end up leaving Matilda feeling about 10 foot tall and that you could conquer the world…even if you’re still a little kid. It is so incredibly empowering. Don’t let bullies, size, horrible parents, your past…stand in the way of where you want to go and what is right. You can do it! Good can triumph over evil but you need to fight for it. Stand up! Matilda was a little girl standing up to beastly adults who wielded such power but she stood up to them.
“’Cause if you’re little you can do a lot
You mustn’t let a little thing
Like little stop you”…
“Naughty”, Matilda The Musical.
Our daughter is small and very petite. Only last Friday, she came home from school and told me she’d joined the school band and was taking up the Baritone Horn. I’ve never even seen a Baritone horn and I don’t really know how big it actually is but it looks big on Google. Being Mum, of course, I immediately wondered how she was going to lug this HUGE instrument to and from school on the train and how she’d find enough air to actually blow a note. I’m so glad her teacher set he sky as her limit and not her feet like her good old Mum. Naughty Mummy! It’s my job to encourage my kids, not to drop a slab of concrete on their heads, giving a myriad of reasons why they can’t do something when indeed they can.
This wasn’t the first time I’ve had to challenge my concept of my daughter.
Miss on Stage Performing Marta with her Musical Theatre Class.
There was also her insistence on auditioning for the role of Marta in the Sydney production of The Sound of Music, even though she had severe vocal nodules and had been banned from singing for a few months while she had voice therapy.
This girl might be small in stature but she certainly has enormous might.
So, Matilda the Musical was the perfect show for her and for me to really appreciate that just because she’s a child and just because she’s small, that doesn’t mean she can’t conquer the world. I’m just not sure she can take me with her!
Matilda the Book Lover
Both being avid readers, my daughter and I both loved how Matilda glorified books and reading. Matilda literally devours books with such a passion and loves to learn, tell stories and stretch her brain beyond its very expansive limits. She is neither intimidated or ashamed of being a child genius but doesn’t show off about it either. She is quite grounded. Indeed, she stands her ground quite firmly knowing who and what she is while her parents constantly tear her down and ridicule her intelligence. Her father consistently says she’s a boy and despite correcting him, he persists, which is just about as bad as it gets as a parent yet her parents keep hitting rock bottom after rock bottom. Her mother, which her peroxide blond hair and lairy leggings, keeps telling her glamour and appearance is far more important for a girl than reading books.
On the other hand, there’s the librarian who loves listening to her stories and her teacher, Miss Honey who becomes a true kindred spirit.
Matilda the Musical wasn’t all about life lessons and moral tales.
It was entertainment, humour, spectacular effects. These were perhaps achieved through a degree of exaggeration, hyperbole and stretching the imagination to its logical conclusions, which turned even the most serious moments into very deep belly laughs.
Even though she was incredibly cruel, undoubtedly evil and absolutely despicable, my favourite character was the School Principal, Miss Trunchbull, played by James Millar. Just the fact that you have a man playing a female character, gives you some idea of the absurdity of this character. Indeed, she could’ve stepped straight out of Monty Python, played by a much younger John Cleese. Of course, everybody detests somebody who is cruel to children. You’re instinctive response as a member of the audience, is to swing like Tarzan onto the stage and grab all those poor little children and whisk them away to safety while the evil Miss Trenchbull rots in jail for eternity. She shuts children in cupboards, force feeds a boy chocolate cake and calls children “maggots”. Moreover, the lighting and use of special laser effects, have you shaking in your seats. She is absolutely terrifying and everything you ever feared as a child and more.
Yet, somehow this evil character becomes funny. Indeed, hilarious!!! That is brilliant theatre!!
Maggie Kirkpatrick as Joan “The Freak” Ferguson in Prisoner.
By the way, if you are Australian or somehow saw actress Maggie Kirkpatrick in the 80s TV Drama Prisoner, there’s an immediate likeness. My daughter disagrees.
Matilda’s parents also share this fusion of despicable evil and humour. They are so awful and tick every single box in the bad parenting book yet they’re somehow funny. Just when you think they couldn’t get any worse, they do. Of course, you appreciate all of their foibles through the eyes of Matilda who is so grounded, sensible and smart but has the lousiest parents imaginable.
I really loved the song “Telly”, which is sung by Matilda’s loser Dad:
All I know I learnt from telly
The bigger the telly, the
Smarter the man
You can tell from
My big telly
Just how clever
A fella I am!…
“Who the Dickens
Is Charles Dickens
Cor, she sounds smelly.
What a rotter!
In the compost-in
Doesn’t sound noice!…”
Words and music: Tim Minchin.
However, unfortunately, all too soon Matilda the Musical was over. Although I could write a book about the performance, it’s not the same as being there and now all we’re playing the CD over and over again like love sick puppies.
There’s also the matter of tackling that musical score and scratching something out on my violin.
Perhaps, that could be the beginning of Matilda…the Unmusical!
Wish me luck!