Matilda. What I saw in the RSC production.


After seeing Dennis Kelly and Tim Minchin’s Matilda last summer in London, two musical numbers stuck with me. The first was “School Song,” a warning to Matilda and the other new students about the horrors that await them at Miss Trunchbull’s school.

And so you think you’re Able,
To survive this mess,
By Being a prince or a princess,
You will soon see [C],
As you’re escaping trageDy.

As the older students sing, they climb the school gates at the back of the stage and slide large alphabet blocks into place in beat with the music and at the moment when the lyrics involve that letter. It is loud, it is defiant, and it is incredibly clever. The second number was “When I Grow Up.” The younger children in the school, played by child actors, swing on these fantastic oversized swings hanging at the edge of the stage and sing about all the things they will be brave and smart and strong enough to do when they grow up.

When I grow up,
I will be strong enough
to carry all the heavy things
you have to haul around with you
when you’re a grown up.
And when I grow up,
I will be brave enough
to fight the creatures that you have to fight
beneath the bed each night
to be a grown-up.

It is sweet and hopeful. As the song goes on, the children, in one swift motion, jump off the swings and the older children, played by adults, jump on and swing out over the audience soaring on their stomachs. It is a magical moment and a reminder that we never quite outgrow those dreams of what we will be when we get older. Kelly and Minchin turn Matilda’s love of reading from the original book into a love of stories and storytelling in the musical. This allows the audience to experience Matilda’s passion for stories through the show’s own storytelling, just as readers could experience her love of books through their own reading.

– ANN N.

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