Review: Matilda Jr, Cardiff Open Air Theatre Festival, Sophia Gardens

Rachel Howells reviews Go Theatre and Dance Academy’s presentation of Matilda Jr at Cardiff Open Air Theatre Festival until July 29.

Facing adverse weather in the open-air theatre is not a challenge any actor wants, more so if you are the ensemble cast of Matilda Jr. But the Go Theatre and Dance Academy, who opened their presentation for two performances on Saturday at Cardiff Open Air Theatre Festival did not let the weather stop them from putting on a phenomenal performance and delighting every audience member in attendance.

Matilda is the story of a girl who dreams of a better life away from her unloving, cruel parents. Although she impresses her schoolteacher Miss Honey, Matilda’s school life is far from smooth, especially as Miss Trunchbull, the headmistress hates children. As most of the pupils’ fear Trunchbull, it is Matilda who must make a stand, not only for the “revolting children” but others too!

Originally a book by Roald Dahl, the Royal Shakespeare Company commissioned production by Dennis Kelly with music and lyrics by Tim Minchin, is alive and happening now in Dahl’s birth city of Cardiff.

With strongly choreographed musical numbers from the offset, choreographer and director Emma-Jayne Parker has ensured the children shine like stars and bring individuality to their stage personas.  Matilda Jr is presented in a bright and colourful fashion, with the ensemble utilising all areas of stage to perfection.

For Matilda Jr, it’s difficult to highlight one single performer as every member of the cast is fantastic. The relationship between Matilda and Miss Honey is delightful, while the sweetness comes through in the storytelling elements between Matilda and the Librarian.   

The performance of Miss Trunchbull was full of character and quite often had the audience laughing, especially when reprimanding the children.  The Wormwood family, including Rudolpho also had the audience in stitches with their dubious dealings.

The perfect family musical to kickstart the summer holidays, Matilda Jr will bring a smile to your face, rain or shine! Matilda Jr continues until July 29. For ticket availability visit Cardiff Open Air Theatre Festival’s website.

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