IT is said that you can always tell the quality of a Gentleman by the cut of his clothes, and if you apply that saying to theatrical productions, Matilda must be classed as being a gentleman of considerable quality.
Everything about the production had class stamped on it : a multi- purpose brilliantly lit set, excellent costumes and wigs, 11 well balanced musicians headed by musical director Andrew Corcoran, wholehearted singing completely in character and choreography performed with the precision of a Guards Regiment at the Trooping of the Colour on Horse Guards Parade.
In the title role, Olivia Juno Cleverley (one of four talented young players who share the role during the present tour,) played Matilda with a confidence and command that must have frightened to death the more senior performers who had to share scenes with her. Timing her lines and moves to perfection, she forced the top quality cast around her to pull out all the stops in order not to be upstaged by the young lady playing Matilda.
It was certainly not her fault, or any lack of diction that some of the dialogue was hard to follow. This was down to sound reproduction that at times muddied the clarity of the words, and was particularly noticeable in the beautifully stage library scenes between Matilda telling her stories to Michelle Chantelle Hopewell’s lovely, innocent-as-a-child, adult library assistant Mrs Phelps.
In most of Roald Dahl’s writing you will find a very dark side rubbing shoulders with broad humour, and adaptor Dennis Kelly has not shied away from those harsh unkind themes. This gives Rebecca Thornhill and Sabastien Torkia a chance, as Matilda’s uncaring parents, to indulge in some outrageous comedy, a chance they grab greedily with both hands.
Even more outrageous, but with a great deal of cold cruel feelings surrounding her, was Elliot Harper’s wicked child-hating headmistress Miss Trunchbull. If Elliot had not been clever enough to let a little self deprecating comedy in occasionally, Miss Tunchbull might have been a little too frightening for the many very young members of the audience.
In contrast, her bullied assistant, and fiend to Matilda, Miss Honey, was played and sung absolutely straight with wonderful sincerity by Carly Thoms.
We have become used to seeing groups of precocious youngsters in shows like Oliver and Annie, but the way in which this group created their individual characters, sang and danced with great flare placed them far above the average youthful ensemble. Stylish was the word to sum up their input and the production as a whole.
Matilda continues at Bristol until 8th June.