Friday, 27 September 2013

Matilda the Musical

When I became pregnant the first time, Mr Duncan and I started a new practice in which he reads aloud to me in bed a couple of nights a week before we go to sleep.  Mr Duncan can be a bit of a gadget addict and this was my way of trying to ensure we both had at least half an hour of non-screen time before bed to
promote good sleep hygiene.

We were supposed to take it in turns reading each book but it transpires Mr Duncan falls asleep almost instantly when I read, and given he said he doesn't mind doing all the reading, now he does all the reading.

So far we have read
We are currently reading Boy, the first autobiography by Roald Dahl who is the author of the book Matilda.

Matilda the Musical opened in London last November and since then I have been asking Mr Duncan when he's going to take me on a date to see it.  I like to take advantage of the culture available to us in London once in a while and I am a fan of musical comedian Tim Minchin, who wrote the music and lyrics.

One of the things I like about Tim Minchin is the articulacy of his lyrics.  He uses a wide vocabulary and often makes unexpected choices which tickle my sense of humour.  Storm is a good example of his work (contains strong language and anti-hippy sentiments).

Both Tim Minchin and Roald Dahl have a good sense of the dark and absurd, so I was sure they would be a good mix.  I haven't actually read the book Matilda or seen the movie and made a point not to find out more than what I already knew - which was that it was about a little girl who liked reading and developed some special powers to restore justice with regard to those who mistreated her.  So when we went on Wednesday night, I didn't really have any expectations.

As a singer, the main thing I like about musicals is the singing.  I know that sounds obvious, but a well pitched, strong voice speaks strongly to me emotionally.  Its the reason I listen to, and frequently cry at, opera - irrespective of whether or not I understand the words.  I've been known to cry at contestants singing on X-Factor for goodness sakes.

This show had me crying at its first line - but because of the words, not the voices.
My mummy says I'm a miracle.
Deep breath.  Children are all miracles though this fact is sometimes not appreciated by people who do not experience any difficulties in having them. The opening number went on to illustrate that Matilda's birth was not desired or her existence valued by her parents, which just made me cry harder.  Its so unfair!
An accomplished reader, in the song Naughty Matilda wonders why characters in stories do not take action to change the endings of their stories.
Just because you find that life's not fair, it
Doesn't mean that you just have to grin and bear it.
If you always take it on the chin and wear it,
You might as well be saying you think that it's OK.
And that's not right.  
And if it's not right, you have to put it right.
But nobody else is gonna put it right for me.
Nobody but me is gonna change my story.
Sometimes you have to be a little bit naughty.
and in a reprise at the end of When I Grow Up
Just because you find that life's not fair, it
Doesn't mean that you just have to grin and bear it.
If you always take it on the chin and wear it, nothing will change. 
Just because I find myself in this story,
It doesn't mean that everything is written for me.
If I think the ending is fixed already,
I might as well be saying I think that it's OK,
This is very much how I feel about trying to have a child.  It was not okay that I was not getting pregnant and no one else was going to get me pregnant so I had to take action and do what I could to change my story.

Cue more tears.

So far, I'm projecting myself all over this show, but I was unprepared for additional elements in the plot that were not in the original book (and do not read further if you plan to see the show and don't want to know about these elements).

It turns out that as well as being a voracious reader, Matilda is a storyteller.  She tells the tale of Escapologist and the Acrobat:

although they loved each other, although they were famous and everyone loved them, they were sad.

MATILDA collects two dolls from the house. She uses them to carry on a conversation.

ACROBAT [off-stage]
We have everything . . .

"We have everything that the world has to offer," said the wife.

ESCAPOLOGIST [off-stage]
We have everything . . .

"But we do not have the one thing in the world we want most."

But the one thing . . .

"We do not have a child."

ESCAPOLOGIST [off-stage]
Patience, my love.

"Patience, my love," the husband replied. "Time is on our side. Even time loves us."


But time is the one thing no one is master of. And as time passed, they grew quite old, and still they had no child. At night, they listened to the silence of their big, empty house, and they would imagine how beautiful it would be if it was filled with the sound of a child playing.


Their sadness overwhelmed them, and drew them into ever more dangerous feats, as their work became the only place they could escape the inescapable tragedy of their lives

Just as they plan to perform the greatest feat ever known to man: The Burning Woman Hurling Through the Air With Dynamite in Her Hair Over Sharks And Spiky Objects Caught By the Man Locked in the Cage

MATILDA and ACROBAT [off stage]
"It is our destiny – "

MATILDA – said the wife, smiling sadly and slipping her hand into his. 

MATILDA and ACROBAT [off stage]"It is where the loneliness of life has led us."

They discover the acrobat is finally pregnant after all these years.  But their attempts to cancel the event are thwarted.

MATILDA and the ACROBAT'S SISTER [off-stage]
"A contract was signed to perform this feat, and perform this feat you shall!"


A contract is a contract is a contract! My hands are tied. The Burning Woman, Hurling Through the Air, with Dynamite in Her Hair, Over Sharks and Spiky Objects, Caught by the Man Locked in a Cage will be performed, and performed this day, or . . . off to prison you both shall go!"


The great escapologist had to escape from the cage, lean out, catch his wife with one hand, grab a fire extinguisher with the other, and put out the flames on her specially-designed dress within twelve seconds before they reached the dynamite and blew his wife's head off!


The trick started well. The moment the specially-designed dress was set alight, the acrobat swung into the air. The crowd held their breath as she hurled over the sharks and spiky objects. One second. Two seconds. They watched as the flames crept up the dress. Three seconds. Four seconds. She began to reach out her arms towards the cage. Five seconds. Six seconds! Suddenly, the padlocks pinged open, and the huge chains fell away. Seven seconds. Eight seconds. The door flung open, and the escapologist reached out one huge, muscled arm to catch his wife and their child. Nine seconds! Ten seconds!


Eleven seconds! And he grabs her hand, and . . . and . . . and suddenly, the flames are covered in foam before they can both be blown to pieces.

Hooray! So the story does have a happy ending after all.

No. Maybe it was the thought of the child. Maybe it was nerves. But the escapologist used just a touch too much foam. And suddenly, their hands became slippy, and she fell.

No. Was . . . Was she okay? Did . . . Did she survive?

The sheet parts and the ESCAPOLOGIST walks slowly forward, carrying the ACROBAT in his arms.

She broke every bone in her body. Except for the ones at the ends of her little fingers. She did manage to live long enough to have their child, but the effort was too great. "Love our little girl," she said. "Love our daughter with all your heart. She was all we ever wanted."

The ESCAPOLOGIST carries the ACROBAT off the front of the stage.

Love our girl with everything. She is everything.

And then, she died.

I'm bawling by this stage.


We can do all we can to put things right, to change the end of our stories.  But it doesn't guarantee the outcome we desire wont slip through our fingers just as everything looks like its going to be okay.


  1. Hi Lisa, the musical Matilda sounds emotionally intense! I love the book--it's one of my favorite Roald Dahl stories. I am wishing you lots of luck with this pregnancy.

    Also, I wanted to tell you that I nominated you for a Liebster blogging award (info on my latest post). No pressure to participate if you would rather not and/or have already received one in the past, but I just wanted to let you know!

  2. I love that Mr. Duncan reads to you! I also tried this strategy for J (also addicted to gadgets), but he wasn't too enthused.

    Now you have been nominated twice for the Liebster Award! If you are interested in participating check out my latest blog post.


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