Not me crying at the World Premiere of ‘Roald Dahl’s Matilda: The Musical’ I thought as I exited Odeon Leicester Square.
With Tim Michin’s original songs being taken from stage to screen, and Matthew Warchus directing, both have had their time with Dahl’s world for well over a decade.
A pre-existing film loved by many I know who’ll say ‘remakes have had their day’. I say give Matilda a go.
This shiny, bright film stars breakout star Alisha Weir as loveable, albeit ‘a little bit naughty’ Matilda. Being the youngster’s breakout “big role”, as she told us in the junket, she’s risen to the task beautifully, a sentiment echoed by her much established co-stars.
The formidable Emma Thompson stars as the baddie; Headmistress Trunchbull, Stephen Graham; Matilda’s crook father, Harry Wormwood and tackling a film sans action is everyone’s favourite Bond Girl, Lashana Lynch.
Lashana Lynch has never been more the moment than in this moment. Her portrayal as the sweetly natured Miss Honey was warmly welcomed by audience members attending this morning’s screening.
Performing two songs, including a heartfelt duet with Alisha on holding hands which harks back to the 1996 film directed by and starring Danny de Vito, and that famous song ‘Send Me On My Way’. Lynch has securely solidified herself as a multifaceted actor, on her characterisation of Miss Honey she states, “I get to watch myself create something for younger generations today…. It’s inspiring to see a young Black woman on screen not be perfect, not striving for excellence.”
Another character brought to life for this 21st century film is travelling librarian; Mrs Phelps who is played by the perfectly animated Sindhu Vee. Reminiscing on her own childhood surrounded by books she states, “There was a teacher in the school, not even my teacher… And she let me stay in class to read.” As a child living across several countries Sindhu experienced bullying and had a stammer which isolated her from her peers. She thanks Alisha for her professionalism during rehearsals.
As for the swath of child ensemble, they are electric. In their uniforms they bring the screen to life, flawlessly performing stage favourites like ‘Revolting Children’ and ‘When I Grow Up’.
‘When I Grow Up’ is tackled by the likes of Matilda’s friends and confidants Bruce, Amanda and Lavender (who I loved as a child, mostly because I felt I looked like her) and they are a delight. Especially Charlie Hodson-Briar who plays Bruce, a natural young talent with great comedic timing.
The ‘School Song’ is delivered by older children, the fearsome but talented Prefects, fronted by Meesha Garbett as Hortensia, who is almost reminiscent of a Violet Beauregarde type character.
The adaptation closely follows the musical, but what I think I enjoy the most is Matilda’s storytelling of the escapologist and his acrobat wife. Delivered alongside a flawless set, which is about the only time we really see adults other than the main cast, it serves as a conduit for Miss Honey’s story as well as a safe space for Matilda to deliver her anger at the world she’s been dealt.
Overall, this was the perfect Opening Gala for LFF 22, sweet, perfectly balanced between realities adulthood and childhood and a musical with just enough elements to keep even the theatre-purist entertained.
Matilda will be in UK cinemas 25 November 2022