Matilda: The Musical, the multi-award-winning production from the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) has arrived in Dubai (first time in the GCC), all the way from West End, London.
Cast members shared their excitement and insights into the production. Gemma Scholes, who plays Miss Honey, expressed her thrill at performing in Dubai and the stunning Dubai Opera venue.
The cast explained that the Dubai version of Matilda has some script tweaks while remaining English-speaking. They also discussed their characters, with Mr. Wormwood (played by Matthew Rowland) being a crook, and Mrs. Wormwood (played by Emily Squibb) being a vain and not-so-nice mother to Matilda, the extraordinary little girl who is armed with a vivid imagination and a sharp mind, prepared to take a stand and change her own destiny.
Three different Matildas rotate in the production, and this dynamic keeps the cast on their toes, offering a fresh and unique experience for each show.
James Wolstenholme, who plays Head Teacher Trunchbull, described his excitement about the Dubai Opera venue and how he's sometimes jealous of the character Bruce, who gets to eat an entire chocolate cake during a scene.
We caught up with the cast members who expressed their enthusiasm for performing in Dubai, their feelings, experiences, and what makes this production unique as well as a must-see show for all theatre enthusiasts. Excerpts from the interview:
How do you feel about Matilda coming to Dubai?
It’s very exciting. Dubai Opera is an amazing venue, and I’m thrilled to be here. The auditorium and stage are incredible.
In one particular scene, you have to make a child eat an entire chocolate cake. How is that experience?
It’s great fun. I’m a bit jealous, to be honest. The character Bruce gets to eat the chocolate cake and ends the scene covered in it. I always feel a little envious because I’d love to eat the cake too. The cake is made with Nutella, and it looks and smells delicious.
Welcome to Dubai! How do you feel about performing at Dubai Opera?
Very excited. Dubai is somewhere I’ve not been to before, so it’s a massive bucket list item for me. The theatre itself, Dubai Opera, is just so grand. When we first entered, it was a big “wow” moment. To be able to bring the show here is really exciting.
Matilda has various adaptations around the world. Could you tell us about the version you’ll be performing in Dubai?
Yes, the version we have now is a slightly updated one. There are some tweaks to the script compared to the London production. I started with the London production in 2018, so I had a few years there. It’s slightly different but all in English. We hope the show can resonate with the audience, even if English isn’t their first language.
Were you always interested in theatre? How did you land the role of Miss Honey in Matilda?
I graduated in 2016 after professional training and did a couple of shows. One finished in London in 2017, and I was lucky to transition straight into Matilda. The audition process was quite long, maybe about 12 auditions. I felt very fortunate to go from one show in London to another. I’ve been with Matilda since 2018. I love the show; otherwise, I wouldn’t still be doing it.
What’s your favourite part about playing Miss Honey?
My favourite part is when she shows her strength at the end of the show. Throughout the performance, you can feel that strength building up within her. As an actor, I enjoy that moment when she finally bursts out in the song My House to express pure emotion. It’s a powerful moment in the character’s journey.
You have a great voice. Did you receive any special training?
Thank you! I trained at Bird College in London, which provided comprehensive training in singing, dancing, and acting. Even after training, you continue to learn and grow professionally. I hope my voice continues to develop over time.
Matthew Rowland and Emily Squibb:
This is your first-ever performance in the region. How do you both feel about the production?
Matthew Rowland: It’s really exciting. Dubai Opera is an incredible venue, and we’re thrilled to be performing here.
Emily Squibb: It’s a massive audience too, with 2000 seats. It’s one of the largest theatres we’ve performed in. We started in Tel Aviv, so this is only our second location.
You’ll be working with three different Matildas. How has that experience been, interacting with different actors for the same role?
Matthew Rowland: It’s been great. We had a boot camp where we rehearsed scenes with each Matilda, one after the other. It’s challenging but exciting because every show becomes slightly different. Comfort isn’t good in acting; it’s good to be in the moment and respond live to what you get.
Emily Squibb: It’s a lot of fun. They challenge us, and we challenge them. All three Matildas are different, which gives audiences unique experiences.
Tell us about your characters, Mr and Mrs Wormwood.
Matthew Rowland: Mr Wormwood is a crook who sells broken cars. He’s in love with his wife but feels inferior to her. He’s driven by the desire to make money for his family.
Emily Squibb: Mrs Wormwood is vain and not very nice. She expected her daughter to be just like her, interested in makeup and other things she likes. Matilda’s intelligence challenges her, and she doesn’t know what to do with her. It’s a fun, challenging role to play.
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