By: Book by Dennis Kelly, music and lyrics by Tim Minchin, based on the book by Roald Dahl
Directed by: Matthew Warchus
Venue: Courtyard Theatre
Date: Monday 13th December 2010
Not our cup of tea, but it was an excellent production, with very good to excellent performances. I preferred the adult bits – I found it hard to make out what the children were singing or saying most of the time, so I tended to lose interest when they were on. I didn’t know the story, and I’m not a fan of Roald Dahl’s work anyway, but I was glad to see so many others enjoying themselves. A lot of youngsters stood up at the end to applaud, which was great for the cast.
I also liked the fact that real children were cast in this production. It’s usually adults playing young, which is also fun, but I think this allowed the kids in the audience to feel more involved. I was surprised to see the way the young actors (and some of the older ones) were allowed to throw themselves onto the swings and float out over the audience. Where was health and safety when this was being set up? Not that I disapprove – it made it much more alive and exciting – but in previous productions the actors have been padlocked to anything that might lift their feet off the ground by even a few inches! As I say, I was surprised to see them get away with all this risk taking – long may it continue.
The set was good, with its constant emphasis on books, books, and books. All sorts of contraptions were brought on and off without disturbing the flow, which helped a lot. The costumes were just perfect, although Rudolfo’s was perhaps less revealing than I (and I suspect many others) would have liked.
The performances of the real youngsters were very good. I particularly liked Lavender – she had good comic timing – and hope she has a long career ahead of her. Matilda tonight was Kerry Ingram, and she was fine, though the problem with real children on stage is that they lack the range of expressions to convey emotions clearly. I managed to fill in the blanks well enough, though.
Bertie Carvel is one of our favourites, and it’s fair to say we haven’t seen him play the same character twice. Miss Trunchbull was certainly a mile away from anything we’ve ever seen him in before, although we know he does both musicals and comedy very well. His physical comedy was superb, and although Dahl’s style of villains isn’t to my taste, Bertie played this one to perfection. I even heard one woman say to her child as she left for the interval, “OK, then, man or woman?”. I think we know who she was talking about!
Mrs Wormwood was very good, and her song, Shout, was a great example of the barbed wit that was aimed more at the older audience members. Style over substance was her mantra, and don’t we just know all about that today! The contrast between the way the children were treated by their doting parents (little angels) and the way the outside world was going to lay into them (maggots) was spot on, as was the way the parents fussed over their little darlings, leading the teacher to smoke a fag on the steps by us, making faces at the things the parents said. Mrs Warchus (hire one, get the second half price?) was also a very beguiling Miss Honey, the nice one, and her voice worked beautifully with this music.
Overall, it wasn’t something I’d choose to see again, but it’s the last production we’re guaranteed to see in the Courtyard, and it wasn’t too much of an ordeal.
© 2010 Sheila Evans at ilovetheatre.me