Exclusive: Roald Dahl’s Matilda to play at Milton Keynes on first national tour

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Watching the final ‘wow’ of Matilda at London’s Cambridge Theatre is something special.

It’s a Wednesday matinee performance and us adults are every bit as enchanted as the schoolchildren surrounding us, writes Sammy Jones.

It’s a colourful tale of good beating bad, and has a killer cast of kids at the helm.

And not forgetting Tim Minchin’s stunning soundtrack which weaves wonderfully around the text.
It’s a breathtakingly brilliant Dahl delivery, and - at last - it is heading our way; Matilda will play Milton Keynes Theatre next June, as part of its first ever UK tour.

“Dahl works in this odd episodic way. It works really well in a book, but not so much for a stage show,” says writer Dennis Kelly, who adapted Roald’s story for the stage.

“...that was one of our great challenges.
“Like everyone, I grew up with Roald Dahl, but I was a bit older so I read Charlie & the Chocolate Factory and Henry Sugar. It was an amazing thing to do, but there are moments when you realise this show means a lot of things to a lot of people and you think ‘I’d better get this right!’”

It is certainly a much-loved piece of work. Audiences love the tale of the little girl with a keenness to learn, whose ill-suited parents pack her off to a school run by Miss Trunchbull.

The cruel authoritarian despises children.

Luckily for Matilda she finds a kindred spirit in teacher, Miss Honey.

“There’s something about the story of a little girl who is not going to take it, that is very appealing,” Dennis says, explaining his own love for Matilda.
“I wrote it and I know what is going to happen, and yet when I watch it, I still say ‘Go on! Tell her what for!” he says, inciting the little girl to conquer the nasty teacher.

“That line where she says ‘You are a big fat bully!’ I want to cheer. I don’t of course, because that would be wildly inappropriate!”

“Trunchbull was probably my most favourite character to write, because she is so disgusting,” he says, “She writes herself really...”

Matilda was originally a Christmas show for the RSC, but having since charmed Broadway, the West End, and stages far and wide, this tour will be the latest successful chapter for the musical that just keeps going from strength to strength - and Dennis reveals that plans are afoot for a new film too.

Talking about how to adapt it from the stage for the big screen, Dennis admits: “The difficult thing is that you already have the songs which are tailored around what’s going on in the production, so it’s quite tricky...”

But he’ll take himself off to his chosen working environment, the cafe, and get those fingers working for the task in hand.

“I write in cafes a lot, I think it’s the best way, and also I can put food at the end of it. I like to reward myself with food at the end of writing. I am a very simple man!”

The charm of Matilda? That’s easy for Dennis to sum up.

“The voice of Dahl is so powerful, he’s in all of us,” Dennis says.

> Matilda will be at Milton Keynes Theatre from June 5 to June 30, 2018.

Priority booking opens on April 19, with general booking from April 26.

Visit www.atgtickets.com/miltonkeynes for more.