Explores: Matilda the Musical, Bristol Hippodrome

If you read my last theatre review (Kinky Boots @ Bristol Hippodrome) then you’ll know I do love a bit of musical theatre. But when invited to a special event to celebrate the arrival of Matilda The Musical at the Bristol Hippodrome, I was especially excited! Seeing the film with my mum at the (original) Odeon in Swansea is a particularly happy memory for me. I’ve been lucky enough to introduce both the book and film in recent years to my two step sons, falling in love with the story all over again…So this was an offer I simply could not refuse – particularly when there was cake involved 😋

The Great Bruce Bogtrotter Bake Off

A slightly surreal experience for a fledgling food and travel blogger – my afternoon kicked off with a Bake Off like no other! Briony Williams, Bristol’s very own Great British Bake Off sweetheart, made an incredible giant chocolate cake, which two of the child stars of the show, Sophie (one of the Matilda’s) and Toby (one of the Bruce’s) helped to decorate. Briony made the ganache on the stage floor of the hippodrome – albeit in a bowl – mere moments before the cast arrived! (Making it all the more understandable when Briony said this was definitely on her list of things she would never have believed she would have done if you’d asked her a year ago…)

Smooshing in progress

Those who know the story will be aware that a chocolate cake does indeed feature, and the cast did say this one was of similar proportion despite Briony’s worries beforehand that it wouldn’t be big enough. After lots of ‘smooshing’ of ganache onto the sponge (brilliant technical term from Briony which I will totally be taking home for my next bake attempt) the cast were finally able to dig in… There was a little surprise in store though – the cake (including ganache!) was vegan! Aka, my favourite quote from Briony of the afternoon…. “It’s basically a salad!”

The finished article

Prior to finding this out both young stars had been incredibly vocal on their enjoyment. Sophie, not usually a chocolate cake fan proclaimed it had ‘changed her senses’ and Toby exclaimed ‘oh my god this is amazing!’ – which made it all the more fun to see their faces when they realised this was no ordinary chocolate cake, (particularly when Briony had asked if they could taste anything unusual and ‘reassured’ them it wasn’t body parts before the big reveal).

“It’s vegan!?!?!”

So the kids couldn’t tell it was vegan, but could I? (Because I was given a piece woohoo!) Honestly… nope!! But I had to have a really big slice just to check, obviously.

My slab of vegan chocolate cake.

I was lucky enough to grab Briony for a quick chat after the Bake Off and clearly a woman after my own heart, I had to ask Briony what her favourite non cake related food stuff was, and she picked (one of) my favourites… bread and butter! You really can’t beat fresh warm bread with really butter can you? Nom. So the obvious follow up had to be which was her favourite Bristol bakery – and she chose Hart’s! Living so close to Mark’s Bread I’ve shamefully never purchased from Hart’s myself – but it’s definitely on the list.

Another Briony favourite – The Ox

I also asked for her three favourite Bristol restaurants, and showcasing brilliant taste again she opted for Bravas, Bambalan (where she hosted her recent pop-up) and for a date night, The Ox. As a fellow Ox fan (read my review here) I had to ask how she likes her steak – respect for the medium (although non pregnant me is always a medium rare).

Selfie with Briony to make the kiddos jealous!

In terms of her favourite cake to make (and eat!) she said it had to be chocolate cake, either the normal or the vegan variety, and her (not so) secret ingredient is…. instant coffee! You can follow Briony on Instagram and find many of her recipes, including for the vegan chocolate cake, right here.

Matilda The Musical – The Show Itself

The week that I visited was SAT’s week for William, which meant it was my youngest little monster, Theo, that was able to come to see the show with me! As I mentioned we were familiar with the story having been fans of the book and film. However, for those who aren’t the story is of a precocious little girl who loves to read, but unfortunately doesn’t have the best home life with parents and a brother who really aren’t very nice to her. The show follows her as she starts at a school with a pretty horrendous headmistress, but one member of staff, Miss Honey, really has an impact on our young heroine…

22-RSC Matilda The Musical UK & Ireland Tour. Annalise Bradbury (Matilda). Photo Manuel Harlan.
Matilda (Annalise Bradbury) Photo by Manuel Harlan.

For Theo this was his first real foray into musical theatre, so for me it was great to see it through his eyes too! At eight years old I had wondered would the show be too long to keep his attention, would it be on too late (the evening showing starts at seven thirty and finishes not long after ten pm) and would he even stay awake? But I needn’t have worried – the show had plenty to keep all ages entertained and he didn’t fidget for a moment, staring enraptured at the stage. It was particularly lovely the next day to hear him telling his brother and dad about his favourite bits, which include a really well executed scene involving Miss Trunchbull and some pigtails… (Book/movie fans may be able to guess what I mean….)

9-RSC Matilda The Musical UK & Ireland Tour. Photo Manuel Harlan
Photo by Manuel Harlan.

We were both really impressed with all of the children in the cast – but particularly the young actress playing Matilda (there are four) who had incredible stage presence and really embodied the spirit of Matilda. The dastardly headmistress, otherwise known as The Trunchbull, was of course another formidable presence, and the costume worn by Elliot Harper only added to this with the bizarre proportions of the shoulders and bust adding to the menace provided by the character. Another shout out has to go to Bruce Bogtrotter, who gained some of the biggest laughs of the evening.

Miss Trunchbull. Photo by Manuel Harlan.

The songs were really catchy but the obvious favourite for me that has been remembered and sung in the George household since our visit was ‘When I Grow Up’. The choreography that accompanied the songs made it more interesting too and we were both fascinated with how well the timing was kept on the swings! There’s also a particularly energetic number featuring gym equipment, and we discussed during the earlier Q&A that those involved had to learn how to perform this safely while making it look unsafe – which must have been most confusing.

20-RSC Matilda The Musical UK & Ireland Tour. Photo Manuel Harlan.
Photo by Manuel Harlan.

The overriding message of the show is that sometimes you have to be a little bit naughty, if things aren’t quite as they should be and that the rules aren’t always necessarily right. Which, as Steffan Lloyd-Evans pointed out during the Q&A session, is particularly relevant in the current political climate. Now we even have school children protesting on climate change, inspired by Swede Greta Thunberg – a fifteen year old who is soon to have her face on the side of Bristol’s own Tobacco Factory thanks to UPFest Summer Editions.

Q&A with Michelle Hopewell (Mrs Phelps) & Steffan Lloyd-Evans (The Escapologist)

As part of the launch event I was also lucky enough to take part in a Q&A – aka chat with a glass of bubbly (aka posh lemonade for me!) – with two of the members of the cast of Matilda. The lovely Michelle, whose birthday it was that day, and who happened to be vegan – so as you can image she was super happy to learn there’d be vegan chocolate cake floating around backstage when she left us! Michelle plays Mrs Phelps on the Matilda tour, the friendly librarian who befriends Matilda and is a facilitator for one of the main storylines. Along with Steffan, a fellow Welshie but without the accent, who plays the Escapologist, which is a part created for the show – but that’s all I’m saying about that (spoilers!!!)

Being a musical theatre fan I was interested in which were their favourites, and Michelle told us that she cried through the whole of the original Lion King production, which worried her dad who thought she hated it – but she had lovely every second and it actually inspired her to pursue her career! Steffan had recently seen Waitress and Come From Away, which both came highly recommended, but his first show was Chicago (and of course he had wanted to be Billy Flynn).

Mrs Potts Dulce de Leche Brownie

They’d already been in our beautiful city for a week so of course I also had to ask – what had they been to see and eat? I loved that Steffan had already discovered Mrs. Potts Chocolate House and was raving about the Dulce de Leche brownie (and who can blame him?! My review of this fine establishment here). Michelle also really loved the harbourside (of course) and was wondering why everyone told her to go and see the bridge… But understood what they meant when she took in the wonder of the Clifton Suspension Bridge for herself!

16-RSC Matilda The Musical UK & Ireland Tour. Steffan Lloyd-Evans (The Escapologist) and Poppy Jones (Matilda). Photo Manuel Har
The Escapologist and Matilda. Photo by Manuel Harlan.

Both actors have been on the tour for seventeen months now but it was brilliant to see they still had so much enthusiasm for the production. They spoke with passion about the show and their fellow cast members (particularly the children), and it was interesting that when asked what their ‘dream’ roles were neither could really narrow it down. The business they are in can be transient – shows start and finish – but what mattered to them was that they were conveying a story that had an important message, and that’s clearly the case with Matilda.

The Verdict

The show had a real ‘feel good’ factor and was great fun for the whole family, with this classic Roald Dahl story having been brilliantly adapted for stage by Tim Minchin and Dennis Kelly. The cast put on a stellar performance, and the music and choreography kept my young date and I entertained for the entire evening.

As I mentioned earlier, this experience was gifted but this has not swayed or influenced this post in any way. No one from ATG Tickets, Bristol Hippodrome or Matilda the Musical was able to check this content before it was published, as usual it was my better half, so any grammatical or factual errors let me know/blame him or my current baby brain!

Show: 8.5/10 according to young Theodore!
Where: St Augustine’s Parade, Bristol, BS1 4UZ
On From/Til: 7th May – 8th June 2019
Age Guidance:
6 Years +
Ticket Prices:
From £15

Thank you for reading!

Lizzie (and Theo) xx

Matilda Time!!
28-RSC Matilda The Musical UK & Ireland Tour. Photo Manuel Harlan.
Photo by Manuel Harlan.

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