Posts Tagged ‘Matilda’

The most common criticism of this show seems to be ‘all spectacle, no heart’ which is a puzzle to me as I thought it had both heart and spectacle. It has always been one of my favourite stories so it had the potential to disappoint, but I thought they were spot on in this adaptation. I loved it.

Even though you don’t get into Wonka’s factory until the second half, the first didn’t lag. It focuses largely on Charlie’s word in the slums, with introductions to the four other silver spoon – golden ticket winners inside a giant TV. By the interval, you were in love with Charlie’s entire family. In the second half, the spectacle increases as we move around the factory and each of the four little monsters gets what they deserve. The Ompa-Loompas are brilliantly created in a surprisingly lo-tech fashion; in fact, the spectacle does have a charming retro feel to it that seemed to me completely in keeping with the material and its pedigree. I find it difficult to judge the score on first hearing, but there were a couple of stand-out solo numbers and some rousing choruses.

What impressed me most I think was the casting. Douglas Hodge captures the combination of eccentric, benevolent, mad and magical that is Wonka very well indeed. Nigel Planer is excellent as Grandpa Joe, the leader of a fine quartet of bed-bound grandparents. It was great to see Alex Clatworthy, who I first saw as (kiss me) Kate at the Guildhall School just two years ago, in such a high-profile role so soon and it was also good to see Jack Shalloo leap from the fringe (Departure Lounge & The Kissing Dance) to this; they were both great as Charlie’s parents. At our performance, Charlie was played with great confidence and charm by Louis Suc and the children playing the four less sympathetic characters were great too.

I actually enjoyed this more than Matilda, not only because the sound was a whole lot better, but because I thought it served Roald Dahl’s story better. It works equally well for children and adults of all ages – my younger adult companions adored it and for our 7-year old theatrical first-timer, well it may be all downhill from here!

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Creating a show that has an 11-year old and his godfather both in stitches is a real achievement in my book.

Daniel Clarkson and Jefferson Turner (from a TV channel called CBBC, apparently) give us, well, potted versions of six pantos and a ‘mash-up’ of another, Aladdin, with Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. They have bags of energy, bucketloads of charm and more silliness than a coachload of 12-year olds. Every panto tradition gets a look in, there are quick changes a plenty, much audience participation and a brilliant ‘3D’ sequence that would have you rolling in the aisles if you weren’t on your feet.

The show owes something to groups that went before, like The Reduced Shakespeare Company, but that takes nothing away from the fact that it was huge fun. For me, you can keep the spectacle of Shrek and Matilda, this is pure entertainment that relies entirely on inventiveness, talent and imagination. A big seasonal treat for both the 11-year old and the oldie. Thoroughly recommended.

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