Film review: Young Dubliner Alisha Weir steals the show in Matilda the Musical 

The 13-year-old is effervescent as the beloved Matilda 
Film review: Young Dubliner Alisha Weir steals the show in Matilda the Musical 

Alisha Weir in Roald Dahl's Matilda The Musical

★★★★☆

Roald Dahl’s Matilda the Musical (PG) is a rather convoluted title, although to be fair it does exactly what it says on the tin. 

Neglected by her parents, the greedy and grasping Wormwoods (Andrea Riseborough and Stephen Graham), young Matilda (Alisha Weir) is sent away to boarding school, which is overseen by the fearsome Mrs Trunchbull (Emma Thompson), a headmistress given to wearing paramilitary-style gear and imposing a quasi-fascist discipline. 

Little of which appeals to the irreverent Matilda, of course, who reminds us, in the first toe-tapping number, that ‘sometimes you need to be a little bit naughty.’ 

Alisha Weir, the star who plays Matilda, with her parents Jenny and Mark at the Irish premiere of Roald Dahl's 'Matilda the Musical' at Cork International Film Festival in the Everyman Theatre, Cork.
Alisha Weir, the star who plays Matilda, with her parents Jenny and Mark at the Irish premiere of Roald Dahl's 'Matilda the Musical' at Cork International Film Festival in the Everyman Theatre, Cork.

And so battle commences between the disciplinarian Mrs Trunchbull and the anarchic Matilda, with the latter gradually rallying her troops – her browbeaten fellow pupils, the sympathetic teacher Miss Honey (Lashana Lynch) – in an all-singing, all-dancing revolution designed to overthrow Mrs Trunchbull’s authoritarian regime. 

Adapted by Dennis Kelly (screenplay and musical book) and directed by Matthew Warchus, Matilda the Musical is a joyful celebration of the rebellious instinct as Matilda lays waste to Mrs Trunchbull’s carefully curated tyranny.

It helps that Matilda is something of a storytelling prodigy, which allows for a story-within-a-story in which Matilda regales the librarian, Mrs Phelps (Sindhu Vee), with a fantastical tale of love and escapology, all of which takes place against a grim, 1970s backdrop that is wholly faithful to the way in which Roald Dahl’s stories conjured magic from the most unprepossessing of circumstances. 

Emma Thompson is a delight as the former Olympic hammer-throwing champion Mrs Trunchbull, but young Alisha Weir steals the show with an effervescent performance of irrepressible wit and warmth. 

(cinema release)

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