Roald Dahl’s Matilda The Musical review: an absolute delight

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Emma Thompson steals the show as Miss Trunchbull in this gloriously fun adaptation of Roald Dahl’s Matilda The Musical.

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. That’s the mantra many will have approached the upcoming adaptation of Roald Dahl’s 1988 children’s classic with, following Danny DeVito’s beloved screen version of the same name.

Ironically, it’s a mantra the new film is more than happy to stick to—though it sees the West End sensation as its predecessor rather than the 1996 movie. Thankfully, it’s a motto that more than pays off: Roald Dahl’s Matilda The Musical is a delight. A peppy, upbeat pastiche of late-80sBritish schooldays, Matthew Warchus’ adaptation of his own play may not be particularly revolutionary, but it is proudly, gloriously revolting.

Matilda Wormwood is a smart cookie and a bona fide bookworm who, thanks to the ineptitude of her uncaring parents (both turned up to eleven by Andrea Riseborough and Stephen Graham, clearly having a blast) has never been to school. Realising their mistake, they soon pack her off to Crunchem Hall, a cross between a British boarding school and a particularly demoralising prison, ruled over with an iron fist by former Olympic hammer thrower Miss Trunchbull (Emma Thompson).

The latter threatens to steal the show, with absurdly proportioned shoulder pads and a wonderfully absurd disregard for the children’s wellbeing (“see if that child is still alive,” she says). But the child cast are just as impressive, especially with the intensive corridor-spanning choreography that makes up some of the film’s most memorable moments.  

Lashana Lynch, meanwhile, is perfectly cast as Miss Honey, in what is quite the departure from her latest sneaky-shooty and fighty-stabby roles in No Time To Die and The Woman King respectively. It’s a shame her solos have been largely cut in the move from stage to screen, but for the sake of pace it’s no bad thing to be left wanting more, and her character’s arc provides a wonderful emotional core to Matilda’s rebellious antics.  

Speaking of songs, it’d be remiss not to mention Tim Minchin’s invigorating score, which carries the same power on screen as it does on the West End stage, despite missing a few pieces. Naughty, When I Grow Up and Revolting remain firm audience favourites, the latter closing proceedings with a rebellious call-to-arms sure to be stuck in car USB ports for weeks to come.

Like the rest of the film, it’s hard to reach the end without a grin on your face. Vive la révolution.

Roald Dahl’s Matilda The Musical is in UK cinemas from 25th November.

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