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Matilda in Mumbai

Updated on: 13 May,2024 03:07 PM IST  |  Mumbai
Nasrin Modak Siddiqi |

Ahead of the premier of the adaptation of Roald Dahl’s Matilda, Sunday mid-day speaks to the cast and crew of the “revoltingly” ingenious musical

Matilda in Mumbai

Matilda’s courage inspires her school mates to have a rebellion of their very own. PICS/HANAN ASSOR

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Matilda in Mumbai

In an adorable note written on what looks like the pages of a school notebook, Yolani Balfour send answers for our email interview. Balfour is one of the three artists—Donna Craig and Myla Williams are the other two—playing the role of Matilda in the Royal Shakespeare Company’s production of Matilda The Musical, in association with GWB Entertainment.

Based on Roald Dahl’s famous novel, the story of an extraordinary little girl in an unforgettable theatrical experience is all set to come to NMACC in Mumbai this week. Balfour admires Matilda’s courage to stand up against what’s wrong. On stage, she focuses on thinking about what Matilda’s emotions would be at that moment. Her challenge was to not smile at the audience, “then I realised that I don’t have to look directly at them—I can just look somewhere close to their face.”

With 101 international awards including 24 Best Musical awards (four Tony Awards, including Best Book of a Musical) to its name, Matilda The Musical began as an idea in 2003 and premiered at the RSC’s Courtyard Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon in November 2010. In its 13-year journey, it has travelled to 91 cities.

The play comes alive when villainous headmistress Miss Agatha Trunchbull encounters Matilda’s rebellious curiosity.
The play comes alive when villainous headmistress Miss Agatha Trunchbull encounters Matilda’s rebellious curiosity.

Actor James Wolstenholme, who plays the diabolical Miss Trunchbull, shares how he watches what he eats, stays hydrated and trains at the gym to keep himself strong for the physically demanding role—his bodysuit itself weighs 8.5 kilos. Before every show, the cast does a physical and vocal warm-up for 30 minutes. The challenge of playing the villain is that “she is dark and evil, I am not. However, it is intriguing to go to this dark side of her and to make her as evil as possible. When the show is over, I come to my room, and my team is ready to take off the costume, bodysuit, and makeup.

My favourite part is when the wig comes off, and I say, ‘end of Miss Trunchbull tonight, shedding her, off me’, and with that, the evilness leaves.” Wolstenholme believes that Miss Trunchbull’s comedic side is already in the writing, script, music, and costume. “As an actor, I try to be true to the moment. The dark side of Miss Trunchbull is tempted to be angry and shout all the time, but sometimes, in her darkness, she becomes quiet and still like a shark.

That’s how I approach the intensity. All of these characters are created, designed, and imagined through the eyes of Matilda. I hope they see the portrayal of my role as Matilda sees Miss Trunchbull—a big, dark, evil character, and I wish the audience in Mumbai loves the show as much as I love performing in it,” he adds.

Donna Craig says she loves that her character is intelligent, brave, strong, stands for what she believes in and knows her worth, just like Craig. “Matilda shows that people should not be treated horribly and that everyone should be treated equally,” she says. Much like Gina Beck, who plays Miss Honey, and says, “Matilda the Musical reminds you that even if you’re little, you can do a lot. Sometimes, we can feel so insignificant that we don’t think we can make a difference in situations we find ourselves in, but by being smart, we can overcome the bullies. I hope I make her a believable character—a lot of the characters in Matilda are larger than life, but I think Miss Honey and Matilda root the show in reality, so the audience can see themselves in us as we deal with all this craziness around us.”

Did you know?

>> Over 100 children have played the role of Matilda  worldwide 
>> Miss Honey and Matilda enjoy cups of real hot tea on stage, complete with milk and a biscuit at each performance during the song, My House

When: May 16 to June 2 
WHERE: NMACC Grand Theatre, BKC
PRICE: Rs 1,200 onwards

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