The Great British Bake Off is a firm favourite in our house, particularly with our 12-year-old. So imagine our delight when we were invited to meet Bristol baking superstar and Bake Off 2018 semi-finalist Briony Williams.
We met her on stage at the Bristol Hippodrome which after watching so many great shows in the theatre was a massive treat to stand where the performers have stood, danced and sung.
The Bake Off star was joined by some of the cast of Matilda The Musical and she presented her version of the chocolate cake Bruce Bogtrotter is caught eating in the Roald Dahl classic.
It was a surreal but highly enjoyable experience to watch Briony and the actors playing Matilda, Bruce, Miss Trunchbull, Miss Honey and Mr and Mrs Wormwood getting stuck into decorating a cake which we’re sure would have got the Hollywood handshake.
“This is one of the best moments of my life”, said our daughter. She was completely and utterly starstruck by the whole occasion.
Then came the big reveal. “Notice anything unusual about the cake?,” asked Briony. The actors responded “no”. “It’s vegan!”. We all thought it was super yummy but we think Miss Trunchball wouldn’t approve!
After a quick chat with Briony (we’ll publish the video soon), we headed to the theatre bar to meet Michelle Chantelle Hopewell who plays librarian Mrs Phelps and Steffan Lloyds Evans, the escapologist, a character not in the original book.
Over a drink we had a fascinating chat about the life of a touring actor with insights on the little pieces of home they like to have to hand while on the road. Steffan always makes sure he has a frying pan available to cook his favourite fry-up!
We asked Steffan and Michelle what they thought are the key life lessons from the show.
“Sometimes you have to be a little bit naughty,” said Steffan. “If there are rules that you genuinely believe to be wrong you have the power to change those things.”
“Standing up for yourself. Believing in yourself,” added Michelle.
The afternoon was the perfect starter to what proved to be an epic main course.
Matilda The Musical is simply spectacular.
Everything about the story of the little girl who loves to read but is bullied by her evil parents and then uses her magic powers to transform her life is awesome. The cast is stunning, the sets are brilliant and the music is a delight.
It can be hard to translate a book to the stage, particularly one so well loved as Matilda, but this production succeeds big time!
It has its own heart and style but sticks perfectly to the spirit of the book.
The characters look exactly like the iconic Quentin Blake cartoons we’ve all come to love so much.
That is particularly true of Elliot Harper as the fearsome Miss Trunchbull. His delightfully camp performance is an absolute joy.
And what can we say about Sophie Woolhouse, one of four young actresses who play Matilda in this production.
She is mature beyond her years and owns the stage. There are moments where it’s all about her and she nails it. The rest of the younger members of the cast are fabulous too and ‘School Song’ was a real highlight with ingenious use of coloured blocks to recite the alphabet.
Sebastian Torkia and Rebecca Thornhill are wonderfully awful as the Wormwoods, and we also enjoyed Michelle Chantelle Hopewell, our old mate from earlier as Mrs Phelps.
The music and lyrics of comedian Tim Minchin are the icing on the cake and communicate perfectly Dahl’s original prose.
This is an absolute gem of a show and everyone should see it.
Matilda The Musical is at Bristol Hippodrome until 8 June.