FILM REVIEW: Matilda the Musical starring Alisha Weir, Emma Thompson & Lashana Lynch

By Neil Durham

WORTH A LOOK?: ****

Matilda songwriter Tim Minchin (Groundhog Day, Old Vic) took to social media over the holidays to explain why this film was available on Netflix on Christmas Day in every country apart from the UK.

  • Read on for reasons including why this film isn’t available on Netflix in the UK and why it’s worth a cinema trip

He wrote: ‘A bullet point response:

1. I’m sorry

2. It wasn’t up to me.

3. As filmmakers, we would prefer audiences to see the film in a cinema. The large format and excellent sound do justice to the incredible detail of the work. I know not everyone can afford it, but if you can, and you’re a fan of the musical, I do think being in the UK – the only place in the world where it got a proper cinema release – is a good thing. You will get to see it on Netflix, too, in a few months.

4. There is a commercial reason why it has worked out this way, involving the fact that the film was funded by Sony and Netflix. Sony isn’t a streamer, and therefore retained the rights to release the movie in the UK in the traditional manner. It might be disappointing (and a bit baffling), but it makes sense, and is one of the reasons the film is so good.’

We’d pencilled its Christmas Day release into our diary and so can understand UK fans’ disappointment but, having just seen it in the cinema, we can report there’s something magical about the shared experience of cinemagoing that does benefit venturing outside the house for.

Matilda was originally a 1988 Roald Dahl novel and was adapted into a 2011 musical by Minchin, Dennis Kelly and Matthew Warchus and all 3 return.

We were late to the musical seeing it in 2016 long after the departure of Bertie Carvel (The 47th, Old Vic) who won a Best Actor Olivier for it as bullying headmistress Miss Trunchbull.

The show won 7 Oliviers in all including Best Director for Warchus and he even married American actress Lauren Ward who originated the role of Miss Honey.

The casting of Miss Trunchbull is probably the 1st major difference you’ll notice from the stage show and Thompson plus prosthetics does a fine job in portraying a character whose evil is at the heart of the story.

Essentially the tale is of a titular schoolgirl whose intelligence and love of books see her disowned by her parents and sent to a school run by an evil headmistress yet with an English teacher – Miss Honey (Lashana Lynch so different from her recent Bond role) – who attempts to nurture Matilda’s enthusiasm for learning.

As evidenced by the well-attended and boisterious screening we found ourselves in, there’s clearly a young female audience for this but Dahl’s genius was always that his tales had a darker appeal which broadened their audience also to adults.

If pushed, we feel Minchin’s (born to Australian parents in Northampton, England) masterpiece is actually musical Groundhog Day which returns to the Old Vic, where Warchus is Artistic Director and again directs this summer.

Warchus directed our favourite ever film, Pride, and here revels in the freedom filmaking affords when featuring the more fantastical element of this piece’s plot including telekineses.

Perhaps it’s the inevitable sentimentaality of the season but we found ourselves stifling tears at the film’s new final song which reinforces a hand-holding theme so memorable from Pride.

Hats off to Minchin for addressing the Netflix Christmas Day backlash and don’t feel afraid of venturing into a cinema to see Matilda the Musical because it remains lots of fun, occasionally dark and also quite touching within its 117 minutes.

  • Main picture via Facebook courtesy Matilda the Musical Tickets
  • Have you seen a National Theatre production before and what did you think of it? Let us know what you thought in the comments below
  • Enjoyed this review? Follow monstagigz on Twitter @NeilDurham, email neildurham3@gmail.com and check us out on Instagram and Facebook

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