The Wheel and Axle

When Children Revolt, Part 1

by on Dec.06, 2017, under Literature, Music & Theater

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Children, especially in hordes, can be a rowdy bunch. This is just a reality of life. However, they can also be an amazing group of smart and endearing young people who can, on occasion, prove to be wiser and more mature than all the clueless and insensitive adults around them.

This is made quite apparent by Roald Dahl’s Matilda, a story about a precocious little girl – abused and unwanted by her own family – who finds empowerment (literally and figuratively) as she makes friends in a school run by a horrific headmistress.

The tale of Matilda Wormwood has been adapted for both screen and stage, and Atlantis Productions is currently doing the musical in Meralco Theater. And quite a production it is.

I came into Matilda with zero expectations. Though I’m superficially familiar with the basics, I’ve never read the book nor have I watched the critically-acclaimed film. I know almost nothing about the musical adaptation. However, one of my friends – even more of a theater enthusiast than me – watched it and said it was great. He was willing to see it with me again.

It was rather amusing that on the day we watched, we had hundreds of schoolchildren watching it, too. Busloads, literally, of kids ages 7-13 perhaps, on a field trip to watch Matilda. The noise at the lobby would’ve sent Agatha Trunchbull into a rampage, but Miss Honey would’ve loved it.

In Matilda, we see the eponymous lead character be born into a family of, well, idiots who do not really want her. She is routinely abused by her parents and older brother for preferring books and education. At a very young age, it becomes apparent that she is advanced when it comes to intelligence; she has managed to read literary classics that even college students may shun, and it is revealed later on she taught herself Russian so she could read Dostoevsky in the original language as he was meant to be read and appreciated.

Matilda is enrolled in school, where her talents and skills are immediately recognized by her teacher Miss Honey; the latter takes Matilda under her wing after her recommendation to accelerate Matilda to an advanced level is shot down by Hitleresque headmistress, Agatha Trunchbull. Miss Trunchbull is the poster girl for bullies, and the fact that she is an authority figure makes it even worse; she takes pleasure in making her charges suffer – the greater the suffering, the better. The possible solace that Matilda could have had outside her difficult home life is negated by this twisted monster straight out of the seventh circle of hell.

As Matilda’s journey progresses, and in between storytelling segments that cleverly set up parallelisms (or anti-parallelisms?) with Miss Honey’s past, we join Matilda as she learns to stand up not just to those who bully her but also to stand up for others like her who get bullied. It is an uplifting tale of empowerment that resonates with all ages.

Continued In:

When Children Revolt, Part 2

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