On Wednesday night, I took my mum and sister to see Matilda: The Musical for mum’s birthday. My mum is over from Canada, and so we have a little tradition of heading up to the West End to see a show — plus, this was one of my favourite books as a child and I’d heard only great things about the musical.
It absolutely did not disappoint. I’m a strong believer that the show experience starts from the moment you enter the theatre — and seeing the magnificent Cambridge Theatre stage covered in colourfully-lit, oversized Scrabble tiles really set the scene. The lyrics were funny, heartfelt and clever – perfectly encapsulating the original Dahl spirit. Our Matilda (I’m gutted that I didn’t take down her name) was a little superstar. Of course, the deliciously evil Miss Trunchbull absolutely stole the show.
I’m not a great ‘reviewer’ of things (probably because I just haven’t had the practice) so I’m not going to say much more about the show itself other than, if you have the opportunity, this is definitely one to watch.
But Matilda struck a huge chord with me because, at its heart, it is a story about power of storytelling. This is especially true for the musical version, a large part of which portrays Matilda delighting her local librarian with installments of a story about an acrobat and an escapologist, all magically brought to life on the stage behind her as she tells it.
Donning my numerous publishing hats, I am surrounded by incredible storytellers… and I’ve also seen my fair share of the not-so-good. I’ve seen so many writers who can compose a stunning sentence, or dream up an amazing character, but who still struggle to tell a good story. It is an art as much as anything else, but one that I believe can be learned.
Reading – and reading widely – helps. But, as seeing Matilda reminded me, books are hardly the only medium for telling a good story. Musicals do it. Plays. Movies. TV series. Even certain songs. And I believe it’s important as writers to keep our eyes and ears open. Plus, you never know when one medium of storytelling might inspire another… as mine did, during a musical.