Thursday, November 26, 2020
Text Size

Matilda the musical

Cambridge Theatre

First a best selling book, then a fun film from Hollywood and finally a musical thatrical producyion that won a clutch of awards in the West End before crossing the Atlantic and conquering Broadway. Still in the West End this should be at the top of anybodies wish list. Take a child and pretend that you are really there for them when secretly enjoying it for yourself.
The story is pretty much the same - young Matilda has grown up in a family who abhor academic achievement whilst her father is a crooked car dealer and her mother lives for her dancing with her lithe latino partner (actually a cockney). Early on she is shocked to discover that she is pregnant and holds this against the young girl who is a bookworm of the highest order. Eventually a deal is made with Miss Trunchbull a sadistic former hammer throwing champion who is not averse to grabbing a child by the pigtails and seeing how far she can fling them - and don't mention the chokey. Only lonely teacher Miss Honey and a librarian can see her true potential. Thrown into the mix is Matilda's knack for inventing a story spread over several instalments that might be closer to the truth than she can imagine, and then of course is her unique talent.
Principally with a cast of nine children augmented by some adults dressed as children for certain musical scenes, there are some fine set pieces which the young actors belt out and move with prescision. Because of the demands of a West End run there are multiple sets of children to fulfill the roles but rest assured whover you will see is someone at the top of their game. The current Mailda's are Isobel Hubble, Sara Munday, Savannah Read, Olivia Wells and Francesca McKeown. They have long and complicated lines (at times almost like Sondheim) yet deliver these with aplomb.

There are some Russian Mafiosi running around too which is perhaps the weakest link plot wise.
Basically it is a riot with some great songs and our young actors will swing out over the audience whilst whichever Matilda you see will climb on piles of books way higher than herself. Writer Dennis Kelly and composer and lyricist Tim Minchin have created a hugely enjoyable evening that is true to the book and yet allows the musical numbers such as 'When I grow up' and 'Revolting' to shine.

Miss Trunchbull is played by Hayden Tee as a kind of Pantomine Dame but with a vicious streak and is gloriously over the top, but never descending into a cartoonish caricature. There is one number based around physical education in which Trunchbull becomes almost surreal amidst all the wooden horse vaulting. The same cannot be said about Matilda's parents performed by Rob Compton and Holly Dale Spencer who are great comically but somewhat two dimensional.

The set alternates between an archway of books and a giant set of school gates, a school classroom and the titular character's bedroom.

This must be the only show which the cast take a curtain call riding scooters and it all adds to the fun. It's some two and a half hours so choose the show you take your children to with care.


For more than 30 years, P.E.S.T.S. (Parents of Ealing Self Help Training Scheme) has been a place where parents and carers of children with a disability or additional need aged 0-5 years and living in the borough of Ealing, can come together regularly in a friendly and nurturing setting.


P.E.S.T.S. believes that all children regardless of their disability should be valued and supported. They should be cared for within our society and be allowed to enjoy life to their full potential.

They run two play and support sessions per week, where children can enjoy carefully structured activities according to their need/stage of development. Many of the children who attend P.E.S.T.S. have autism, behavioural difficulties and complex medical needs.

At the same time, parents are offered advice, support, information and training opportunities, whilst meeting others going through similar problems and challenges. We also offer regular trips, outings and parties for disabled children, their siblings, parents and extended family and provide door to door transport to the play sessions and other events for families in need.


P.E.S.T.S. has been a real source of help to families of children with a disabled child, especially in the first few years of their life. Families who attend P.E.S.T.S. are often just coming to terms with the realisation that their child has a disability and are often overwhelmed by the rounds of form filling and appointments that follow.

Once a family realises their child is disabled, they are often left with an overriding sense of fear, confusion and grief. To find a place where all of this is understood by people who are feeling the same makes families feel less isolated and more hopeful at the beginning of the difficult journey that will be their child’s life.

The Outreach Worker works with families to provide information and advice including emotional and practical support. They provide a dedicated out of hours outreach telephone service for parents and carers facing difficult situations, a crisis or recent diagnosis. This is a vital lifeline for many, who are at a loss when faced with life changing news.


* Play/Activity sessions every Tuesday and Friday mornings 10.30-12.30 in term time, for babies and children 0-5 years.

* Activities led by experienced and qualified play leader.

* Multi-cultural assistant play-leaders and volunteers to help and offer language support.

* Talks and information for parents/carers from specialist health visitors, therapists and other speakers.

* Door to Door transport to and from sessions, if required.

* Toy Library with specialist equipment opens every other week.


* Holiday sessions and outings for the whole family.

* Parent/carer only evenings - meet others having the same experiences.


* Opportunities to learn more about working with disabled children .


* Opportunities for parents and volunteers.

* Training sessions for communication, child protection, behaviour, first aid etc.

A Typical P.E.S.T.S. Session

People arrive and we chat and share news. There are activities set up for nursery aged children, such as painting, gluing etc. There are lots of toys for babies as well as toys for toddlers. Sometimes we have a visiting speaker or therapist come to work with us at this time.

Coffee and tea for the grown-ups in the small room. Fruit and juice for the children.

Food and drinks are cleared away. Your child may go into the garden if it is not wet. You will need to keep an eye on them as they play on the big slide etc. If it is cold they need to wear a coat and suitable shoes. You can borrow Wellington boots from P.E.S.T.S.. If you stay in the big playroom please remove children's shoes when they are in the ball pool.

We clear up and sit together for a circle time. Please encourage your child to join in the circle. If they are not willing at first just stay for a few minutes and then take them to the small room - gradually encourage them to stay longer. This is good practice for the nursery school. We sing all sorts of songs and nursery rhymes, read stories from the big books or play musical instruments. You can talk and share all these things with your children when you go home. There are notices for the adults about upcoming events.


We have visited these sessions and can confirm that they are relaxed and friendly. The volunteers get a real sense of purpose and face many different scenarios with
a smile and patience.

Trips out include the very popular Heathrow Gym where the children can play on a variety of equipment in a safe environment. The Christmas party is also well attended and of course Santa turns up.

For more information please contact:

P.E.S.T.S. Office, Heller House Annexe, 124 Norwood Road, Southall, Middlesex, UB2 4DX.

Telephone/Fax: 020 8571 9954


(Statement provided by organisation)

Whilst P.E.S.T.S. is part funded by Ealing Council, we have to rely on fundraising and donations to maintain the charity.

As the council is reducing the amount of funding it gives to local charities, we need to rely on the generosity of our community more and more in order to be able to maintain our current support for disabled children and their families.

Each pound we raise goes directly towards running our play sessions, providing fun opportunities and events for children and towards training for parents, in for example, sign language or intensive interaction for children with autism.

By raising funds with a cake stall, or a sponsored silence, you would know that your support would be making a real difference in the lives of local disabled children and their families.

P.E.S.T.S. also needs more volunteer play workers for Tuesday and Friday mornings; - anyone with an interest in supporting disabled children under 5 would be welcome to contact us to find out more about what we do.


If you think that you might be able to help P.E.S.T.S. and you would like to know more, or see our charity in action, we would be more than happy to arrange a visit to one of our play and support sessions, or organise a short presentation at your convenience.

Page 3 of 3