However, the talent of the kids at Streetz Ahead and the power they were able to put behind their performance at the Bernie Grant Centre in Tottenham more than compensated for that.
The eponymous main character, a young girl called Matilda, loved to read and could do so from a young age – similar to me, which was why I related to her.
However, unlike most children, Matilda isn’t encouraged to read by her mum and dad. Matilda’s parents often mistreat and neglect her, and ridicule her as a bookworm, believing that watching television is better than being enriched by reading a book.
Eventually, her parents allow Matilda to go to school, where she has a lovely teacher and many friends. However, her horrible headteacher Mrs Trunchbull hates all children, and constantly calls them ‘revolting’. But ‘revolting’ also has another definition and, in Streetz Ahead’s performance, the kids revolt against Mrs Trunchbull and eventually, led by Matilda, they put things right.
Her classmates are fascinated with Matilda’s knowledge, having previously believed that the capital of England was Tottenham, and the president of the USA was Donald Duck! Matilda teaches them not only how to read, but how to stand up to Mrs Trunchbull.
Even without many stage props, the story could still be cleverly conveyed to the audience. Some of the props were large wooden blocks, painted to look like other well-known Roald Dahl books, such as The BFG and The Enormous Crocodile, a book which (perhaps symbolically) turned around to become Ms Trunchbull’s desk.
The kids of Streetz Ahead perform ‘Revolting Children’
Matildz included all the original West End musical songs, such as the ‘School Song’. For this number, children in Matilda’s class used the alphabet blocks, scattered around the stage, to explain the misery of school under Mrs Trunchbull, with Matilda, herself, asking ‘Why?’.
The intro song of Matilda, ‘Naughty’, was used near the beginning as Matilda planned to pull a prank on her money-obsessed, TV-watching father. Matilda was played cheekily and inspiringly by Emila Bosi.
The dances integrated into the play were incredible. Children as young as five performed on stage, sang and breakdanced. Even a really young boy did a stunning Micheal Jackson impression! Choreographed by the director, Elizabeth Lahav, and other choreographers, they showcased Streetz Ahead’s speciality of street dance.
One of the dances I liked was ‘Bookworm’, which symbolised the power of reading to bring imagination to life. In the dance, the children created the settings of the books using physical theatre, climbing beanstalks or fighting monsters. I thought it was clever how the books themselves were integrated with the dance.
I also really liked the dance ‘Puppet Master’, cleverly representing the kids’ understanding that they were being controlled by the headteacher. However, the kids broke free of their invisible puppet strings, performing their own dances.
The uplifting song from the West End musical, ’When I Grow Up’ was used at the end to imply these children had uncertain futures ahead. However, they could change this future with education and by daring to be different.
As I left the Bernie Grant Centre, I had the feeling of having visited a professional theatre production. There was a massive turnout and luckily the hall was big enough for the entire audience.
I got to see Elizabeth Lahav’s sister after the show. I thanked her and her sister for organising a great performance. I loved how Streetz Ahead modernised Matildz and made it relevant to today.
Also, a massive thank you to the parents of a young performer, who allowed me to use one of their reserved tickets. We sat next to each other and chatted before the start of the play. Thank you so much!
Read the parent and student testimonials of their time in Matildz.
Streetz Ahead is a leading dance and performing arts charity for children and young people, located in Tottenham. Founded 22 years ago, they encourage young people to express themselves through performance and dance, offering this experience affordably for the children’s families.
Streetz Ahead often produces ‘street dance’ adaptations of well-known stories or musicals, having already performed ‘Back to the Future’ and ‘Annie meets Ollie’. Its next stage production will be Generation Blink.
If you or a young person you know would like to get involved with Streetz Ahead, please go to their website.