Last week I had the pleasure of viewing the latest edition to Shoreham Academy’s long list of yearly productions: Matilda the Musical! Having not watched any of the academy’s previous productions, I was deeply satisfied by the performance, perfectly mixing music, stage design and brilliant acting to create a night to remember for all of the audience.


Matilda the Musical, based on Roald Dahl’s novel Matilda (1988), premiered in the West End in November 2011 and was quick to receive widespread critical acclaim, winning Best New Musical at the 2012 Olivier Awards. The musical follows 5-year-old bookworm Matilda Wormwood as she overcomes challenges posed by her parents and school, even helping her benevolent teacher to reclaim her life along the way. A film adaptation released in November 2022 in the UK, and various songs from the musical would subsequently go viral on social media platforms such as TikTok, for example the disco-inspired, double entendre hit “Revolting Children”.


As someone whose only experience with Matilda was Danny DeVito’s 1996 comedy, I was unsure of what to expect from the performance. However, I quickly became engrossed following the opening scene, which involved the humorous retelling of Matilda’s birth from the point of view of her careless parents. I found both Mr and Mrs Wormwood, played by Corin Motley and Ailsa Rice, to be highlights of the show, using their voices and body language to great effect which frequently encouraged the collective, bellowing laughter of the audience. A particularly funny running joke involved Mr Wormwood, a shady car salesman, continuously referring to his daughter as “boy”, as well as Mrs Wormwood’s not-so-secret love affair with ballroom dancing.


Of course, Matilda, played by Ruby Richardson respectively, was also a major factor in the production’s success. Songs such as “When I Grow Up” understandably brought some members of the audience to tears, with the parents in attendance reminiscing over their childhood days. I personally found the song “Quiet”, performed beautifully by Ruby, to be the most emotive as someone who occasionally struggles with anxiety and the constant ‘noise’ I’ve become accustomed to in my head. 


However, as in most musicals, if I were to pick the star of the show it would have to be the villain. Miss Trunchbull, portrayed perfectly by Frez Bradshaw, is the terrifying headmistress of Matilda’s school, who’s dastardly acts include locking children in the Chokey (a claustrophobic wardrobe filled with broken glass), throwing pig-tailed girls (poor Amanda) into the air like an olympic hammer throwing competition and forcing Bruce Bogtrotter to devour a whole chocolate cake in one sitting. Throughout the show, Frez would always exude a villainous aura on stage, and their booming voice would draw the attention of the entire audience. Frez certainly made it hard not to root for the villain in this performance, and some scenes involving Miss Trunchbull were almost worth the price of admission alone.


Overall, Shoreham Academy’s performance of Matilda was outstanding, and all the young actors and actresses, as well as the people who put in work behind the scenes, deserve full commendation. I might even return to see next year’s performance and would encourage you to go as well! Just maybe we could avoid the self-promotion at the end next time, if you know you know…