In February 2023 the curtains opened to the most challenging stage production Abbey Gate College has ever attempted – Matilda Jr.
The mammoth musical was staged in the Sports Hall, but the vast space was successfully converted to a full-scale theatre for the duration of final rehearsals and the three-night run of the show itself.
Not only were students from across the College (performers from Year 5 through to the Upper 6th) in the cast, six local primary schools were also involved over the three night run. These schools (Delamere C of E Primary School, Eccleston C of E Primary School, Farndon Primary School, The Firs School, Saighton C of E Primary School and St Martin’s Academy) enjoyed special Performing Arts sessions of an hour a week per school from October, with each school receiving visits from Abbey Gate College’s specialist teaching staff.
This outreach initiative enabled the College and external primary schools to come together as part of the Abbey Gate College community, and for the 217 primary aged pupils to have the opportunity to experience being involved in a production on such a large scale.
Loveday Ingram, renowned Theatre Director and Adapter has provided the following review of the College production of Matilda Jr.
‘As the audience were ushered into their seats to performances of the whole school production of Roald Dahl’s Matilda the Musical, there were gasps of surprise as the sports hall had been transformed into a full-size theatre, with raised stage and lighting rig together with seating for 400.
This ambitious staging of the story of the lonely little girl with X-Men superpowers was an exhilarating roller coaster of dance, music and storytelling, executed with huge energy and commitment by everyone involved. Roald Dahl’s brilliant tale of the free-spirited Matilda and her love of reading combined with Tim Minchin’s dazzling songs and music, was staged with style and wit and served up by the cast with gusto.
From the moment the children popped up from behind the table at the top of the show singing ‘My mummy says’ I’m a Miracle’, we knew we were in for a treat of an evening. The choreography and staging by Miss Anger was playful and inventive and the dancing was brilliant throughout. The music and band under Mr Andrews’ lead was first class, and the inclusion of a skilled backstage choir made a huge impact on the professionalism of the evening.
The involvement of local primary schools Delamere, Eccleston, Farndon, Saighton, St Martin’s Academy and The Firs was a welcome addition. There was some terrific storytelling from all the cast, especially from Evelyn Baty as Matilda, who gave a moving, truthful and finely nuanced performance in the lead, Hayden Collins was suitably wicked as the tyrannical Trunchbull, James Churchill-Evans, Christina Mills and Dylan Wilson were hilarious as the Wormwoods, Matilda’s ghastly nouveau-riche family and Fran Laithwaite was touching as Miss Honey.
There was a feast of talent from the supporting cast as well, from Tess Lees-Jones and Thomas Else as the Escapologist and his wife, James Bartholomew as Bruce, Ezra Mugridge as Rudulpho, Fearne Davidson as Lavender, Katie Spencer as Mrs Phelps, Iolo Mellor as the disgusting cook, and a fabulous cameo from Nell Bartholomew as the Russian mafia.
The cast were gleeful, captivating and confident, and they attacked the songs and dance routines with the commitment of professionals, from The Smell of Rebellion to Revolting children.
Huge congratulations to Miss Anger and Mr Andrews for putting such a fantastic show together – what a stunning endorsement of the importance of the arts in education.’
Cast members were keen to share their memories of the experience, too!
- ‘I think my favourite part of the show was probably the interactions between all of the actors, choir and ensemble. Part of what made it such a memorable experience was the confidence put in us by our teachers and peers, encouraging us on. It was never about being the best actor or singer or dancer, just the best you could be. We were all limbs of the body of the show.’ Charlotte Clark – Year 7
- ‘It was privilege to be a part of such a huge production! I have really enjoyed working with people from other years and making long lasting memories with everyone involved!’ Christina Mills – Year 12
- ‘I have grown so much more in confidence than I ever thought I would a can’t wait for the rest of my drama journey. Anna Dodman – Year 7
- ‘Matilda was such a valuable experience for me because I was able to work with such an amazing cast of all ages and learn what it was like to be one of the main characters in one of the mostly internationally renowned musicals, a family favourite. The professional set meant I could master the skills of using different props and scenery which is very important when working on stage. I thoroughly enjoyed the whole process of creating the musical and feel very privileged to have been given the opportunity to be part of such a high quality and professional experience at school.’ Francesca Laithwaite – Year 13
- ‘I loved every part of this experience. A huge part of it is the lovely people I have met on the way. This production also boosted my confidence so much! I can’t wait to see what will happen in the future. This is a production I will never forget and always look back on.’ Evelyn Baty – Year 7