Chronic Illness Friendly: 3/5
Chronic Illness Friendly Review
The Cambridge Theatre is a beautiful venue, and I found it to be particularly wheelchair accessible. As the Box Office and Foyer Entrance are both step-free, you can pick up your tickets without hassle, and the Front Of House staff were both chatty and attentive as they personally took us around to the wheelchair entrance at the side of the theatre. From here, you can access the bar, a small confectionary kiosk, a programme stand and an accessible toilet without encountering steps.
For those who struggle with noise/sensory overload, do bear in mind that the wheelchair entrance and following waiting area were quite narrow and became quite dense with crowds as people began to arrive before the doors opened and people could take their seats. However, there is a small section of corridor between the wheelchair entrance and this foyer that (inadvertently) served as a quieter area: you may be more comfortable waiting there.
If you have mobility issues but don’t use a wheelchair, be aware that there are steps leading up from the entrance of the theatre to the main foyer. However, by using the wheelchair entrance, you can access the stalls step-free and with minimal walking distance. The distance between the stalls entrance and the accessible toilet is also within about a hundred metres, which is pretty ideal. If you usually go for aisle seats to stretch your legs during the performance, the aisles are used frequently by the cast so… yeah, don’t stick your legs out during this one. Don’t risk breaking a stagey child’s leg and ruining their career before they hit puberty.
You can find further information on Cambridge Theatre’s accessibility here.
In a nutshell? For people with chronic illnesses, Act One = good, Act Two = not so good. The show is definitely one worth seeing if you can persevere with the special effects, but I definitely recommend taking your sunglasses and earplugs for this one. The strobe and loud noise moments were relatively infrequent, but when they did happen, my goodness… they didn’t happen by halves.
In Act One, be wary of intense strobe lighting during the Amanda Thripp plait swinging debacle. Without giving too much away, don’t be afraid of missing anything by shutting your eyes during these 20-30 seconds when she goes up in the air: you cannot see much of what’s happening outside of the heavy strobe effects, so you’re not missing any key moments on stage by covering your eyes and protecting your sensitive heads. I took one for the team confirming this for you, guys. Ouch.
In Act Two, put in your earplugs immediately after the end of ‘My House’ and don’t take them out until the end of ‘Revolting Children’. You need to trust me on this one. Also be prepared to shut your eyes for around 15-20 seconds of strobe lighting during Miss Trunchbull’s intense monologue, but after that, you’re all good until the end of the show. There are flashing coloured lighting effects used throughout the show; to me these actually weren’t too harsh on the eyes, but I’d still advise caution and a decent pair of sunglasses for those sensitive to light.
A final thing to bear in mind is that the content of the show involves the neurological condition Narcolepsy used as a punch-line, however the humour of the joke relied on Matilda providing an accurate and thorough wealth of knowledge about the condition: to me, it seemed to have been handled respectfully, and I don’t think it would cause anybody to take offence or feel upset. There was also a similar moment involving an inhaler being confiscated: again, handled inoffensively and humorously.
To sum up: an enjoyable show in an accessible venue, just be prepared for intense moments of special effects. Good job, Matilda team!
Matilda The Musical is definitely up there as one of my all-time personal favourite shows. With the book by Roald Dahl being one treasured by me as a child, and Matthew Warcus’ musical incorporating all the strengths of the book along with fresh and original scores courtesy of none other than Tim Minchin, it would be difficult NOT to fall in love with it. Matilda was my show of choice for my 21stbirthday, and this is actually the only musical to date that I’ve been lucky enough to see more than once on the West End.
Of course, we have to talk about Gina Beck as Miss Honey. Gina as one of my favourite stagey people, playing one of my favourite stagey roles in one of my favourite stagey shows? My Lord, I nearly cried when I heard the casting announcement, so you could imagine my reaction when I got this trip organised and found out I would be seeing her perform. Her characterisation of Miss Honey radiated love and comfort and homeliness throughout, but it was ‘My House’ where to me she really shone: it was so tentative, yet so raw and emotional and oh my goodness, I just loved it.
As a stark contrast, David Shannon as Miss Trunchbull GAVE ME LIFE. Even as such a repulsive, dislikable character, he absolutely slayed. I only wish I could pull off a cheeky miniskirt with as much sass as he did. And despite me using words like ‘slay’ and ‘sass’, I really liked that the male playing the female wasn’t an effeminate, over the top pantomime villain characterisation that you so often see: it was just the right balance of catty, authoritative, and slightly terrifying. Something I often think about is that although Matilda has an abundance of golden musical numbers, the one that’s my personal favourite and yet never seems to get as much promotion or respect as the numerous others is ‘The Smell Of Rebellion’. I just LOVE that part of the show, and Shannon’s comical performance during Phy-Ed was just brilliant: as much as I resented my own PE lessons at school, I can only be glad that my teacher wasn’t an ex hammer-thrower with unrelenting anger issues. Ofsted really missed a trick there.
I could easily praise each and every one of the cast we saw perform. Lily-Mae Evans was of course a phenomenal Matilda, with the most satisfyingly clear dictation consistently throughout that really helped to add clarity to the storylines. Mr and Mrs Wormwood, Tom Edden and Marianne Benedict, were just as hilarious as I hoped they would be, and Callum Train’s short but sweet time onstage as Rudolpho was stellar; I can only wish I could get down like that in the club.
And then you have the entire ensemble of children and adults, both of whom were just outstanding. Both the casting team and the performers did a great job of giving each individual a personality within the story, yet making the groups work as a whole. Each and every one of them were going 100% full out, 100% of the time. They dance those same steps countless times, and yet they were performing like it was the performance of their lives. And what steps they were: Peter Darling’s choreography was clean, crisp and innovative, and really made an impact when the groups came together to dance. I particularly enjoyed School Song, the staging of which just cannot be beat. One of my life goals is to memorise those lyrics, and if you’ve seen it for yourself, you’ll know why. It’s just brilliant.
Finally, there were so many aspects of Rob Howell’s set design that were just stellar: the swings for the ‘When I Grow Up’ routine, the subtle similarities between Matilda’s bare bedroom and Miss Honey’s house in contrast to The Wormwoods’ garish home décor, Miss Trunchbull’s cold and clinical office… I could go on. Complimented by Hugh Vanstone’s lighting design, under Andre Ptaszynski’s production lead, the crew got every scene just right.
I just love this musical so much, okay? As soon as I took my seat and saw the swings, I genuinely had to hold back the tears. And I was doing SO GOOD at not blubbing my eyes out: I didn’t cry when Matilda hugged Miss Honey for the first time, I didn’t cry when Miss Honey sang My House, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t cry when they literally cartwheeled off into the sunset. It was just so lovely and justified and… right. The perfect end to an emotive, witty, insightful and genuinely hilarious show that you could and should take the whole family to. As Matilda says, sometimes you’ve got to be a little bit naughty, and clearly being a little bit naughty implies treating yourself to tickets right now. You know you want to…
To Hannah and the Matilda Publicity Team, I owe you a great deal of gratitude for helping me on my mission of promoting accessible theatre for people with chronic illnesses: I don’t have enough words for how much I loved and appreciated this opportunity. If you’d like your production reviewed for chronic illness suitability, drop me an email!