Matilda as an adult
| By Shaun Nolan
(Updated on Jan 5, 2018)
I saw Matilda: The Musical for the first time in previews and then I went and saw the show again back in September 2015 when the cast changed. When I saw the show for a second time, I posted a review on London Theatre Direct that I targeted at a certain demographic: children. My reasoning behind this was because I thought Matilda was great fun, but I didn’t have anything original to say about the show because I didn’t think much of it than it was a great show for kids. At the time, I was 16 years old and only a week into my time in sixth form, and while that may not feel like long ago, a lot has changed in my life since. I didn’t realise how fleeting childhood feels after you leave school and now, having seen the show with my 18-year-old eyes and having left school and now being in the workplace, I’ve come to realise that Matilda is as much a show for adults as it is for children
This feeling had been poking me on the shoulder for the whole of act one when I revisited the show, but it wasn’t until the second act opened and the cast started to perform the show’s most popular song “When I Grow Up” that tears came to my eyes. It’s a song that is so jam-packed full of hope in the lyrics and the melody performed by those children that absolutely broke my heart. The things they sing of – like eating sweets every day when they’re older or getting to stay up late every night – are so easily attainable as an adult now, but none of it is what we want at all. The song managed to powerfully transport me back to the mindset of being a child and feel a complete wave of nostalgia overcome me. It was a completely emotional and visceral event and one that I cannot wait to experience again.
After I started to see the show in that light, the whole thing became a complete emotional rollercoaster for me. It strikes me as remarkable that a show that has been running for almost six years now can still be as slick and as impactful today as it was on opening night. I cannot think of a single other show in the West End that has choreography as tight and goosebump-inducing as Peter Darling’s for Matilda, especially in the show’s opening number “Miracle”. That alone made me feel emotional about the piece! The new cast are incredible as well and they’re so well cast by Will Burton that their embodiment of the characters is not just acting, but a transformation. I was utterly invested in the story that these actors were telling and despite knowing exactly how the show ends, I did not once wonder how much longer there was left, nor did I want the show to end. This show is entrancingly beautiful.
And not only is this show incredibly powerful from an emotional perspective, but it is hilarious in equal measure. As a young teen, I had never paid attention to how explicit and inappropriate the humour in this show is, especially some of the lines that come out of the kids’ or Miss Trunchbull’s mouth. I very rarely laugh out loud at the theatre – you can ask my friends that – but I couldn’t resist it with this show. It’s brilliant fun.
I can’t believe it took me becoming an adult to truly appreciate everything that this show has to offer, but Matilda is without a doubt one of the best – if not the best – musical that is running in London’s West End. If you don’t have children to take to see it then take your partner or your friends, or even go on your own like I did. The experience is completely unforgettable and I’m already excited to go back and enjoy it all over again.
Matilda tickets at the Cambridge Theatre are currently booking until 10 February 2019. If you haven't seen it yet, go now. If you've seen it before, go again!