Cape Town – Roald Dahl’s Matilda comes to life on stage in a musical adaptation of the much-loved book. The title role of Matilda is shared between Lilla Fleischmann, Kitty Harris and Morgan Santo. The young performers hail from Cape Town.
The Royal Shakespeare Company production is on at the Artscape Theatre, with a beautiful set design and original songs by Tim Minchin.
The musical’s story, produced by Pieter Toerien, centres around 5-year-old Matilda who uses her advanced powers of reading and telekinesis to overcome the obstacles in her life caused by her family and school, while also at the same time helping the adults in her life.
The three young performers have become best friends after sharing the role. “I knew Lilla before because she went to the same school as me. We are all different in special ways and it’s so interesting seeing how the other girls say their lines and sing,” said Kitty.
While she enjoys the role, she said going for months on tour without seeing her family and friends has been difficult for her. Each girl approaches the role in unique ways. “We’re very individual Matildas and all have different ways of playing her, but we learn from each other.
“We have something called a Matilda mask and when you have it on you can’t smile whatsoever, and that’s pretty hard for me because I’m a very smiley person.”
Fleischmann said she admired Matilda for being kind and headstrong.
“She believes in what is right and stands up for herself and others. This makes her a strong character. It’s these aspects of her personality that inspire me and that is what makes this role so special to play,” she said.
The three young performers are joined on stage by Bethan Dickson as Matilda’s devoted teacher Miss Honey and Nompumelelo Mayiyane who plays the lovable librarian Mrs Phelps.
Both women said they had already been familiar with the works of Roald Dahl, Dickson from childhood while Mayiyane was became aware of the author as an adult. “It’s only now that I immerse myself in this world of Matilda, and I’m amazed at how someone can write something that resonates this much with both adults and children,” said Mayiyane.
She added: “She’s given status and validation and is seen as an equal by Mrs Phelps, and because Matilda is ignored in the household, she loves to escape to this other world with Mrs Phelps.” Dickson said the connection between Miss Honey and Matilda was evident from the very beginning
“They strike up this immediate connection, which the audience can see, but there are underlying issues that are not as evident early on. Miss Honey is this mouse-like character but a darker side to her develops.
Roald Dahl was the author of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Matilda, The BFG and many more popular stories.
Matilda the Musical is on at the Artscape Theatre until January 13 with tickets ranging from R100 to R520 available at Computicket.