The recent production of Matilda the musical not only enthralled and amused me, it opened up new ideas of children’s talents and gifts. Everyone knows about Roald Dahl and his Revolting Rhymes or Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, but the privileged few like me who were entertained by the musical spectacle of naughty, grotty, horrible and amazing child prodigy came away with lots of smiles and conversation.
Matilda Wormwood can read far beyond her years. Not only Dickens, Hardy, and the classics, she has the incredible gift of being ” an exception to the rule” as Miss Honey so kindly tells Miss Trunchbull. She is the little kid who can teach grown ups lessons. She’s the little kid who is a girl but her father calls her a boy. She is the child who excels at counting, algebra and story telling. She can stand up for herself. Small, strong and fearless.
This little girl spoke eloquently, deliberately, knowingly, and gloriously. With her obsessive ball room dancing mother, Matilda’s composure was admirable. With her corrupt and devious car salesman father, Matilda spoke simply with conviction and possessing good morals. And with Miss Honey her teacher, she spoke truthfully and gently showing a rare empathy with her ruined situation. A teacher who made a difference to her life.
The musical got me thinking about children’s gifts and talents. How we need to celebrate them not be threatened by them. There’s a myth that says giftedness is something to be jealous about – UNTRUE! Often gifted children feel isolated and misunderstood.
Any click on google will bring up the characteristics of the gifted child – sophisticated vocabulary, a thirst for knowledge and learning, memory, abstract thinking and reasoning, a love of books, awe-inspiring understanding and knowledge about a subject, understanding adult hypocrisy and cover-up – the list goes on.
We see all these in Tim Minchin’s interpretation of the book, where Matilda reads widely, quickly and intensely. She has well developed powers, is a fluent thinker and uses her imagination to fantasise. Above all this little special girl has an intrinsic motivation to learn.
I am challenged by this little girl who teaches grown ups lessons. Apart from the brilliant cast, songs, dancing and theatrical stage creativity, this show is a must see. I even managed to talk to another girl in the crowds whose name, like my grand daughter, is Matilda. Here she is dressed for the occasion.
I am now ready to re-read the book, searching for the magic, naughtiness and “throwing children around by the hair” tension that makes the author Roald Dahl so famous.
Perhaps you, like me, will have uncovered some magic truths in the musical. Let me know.