University of Cambridge > Talks.cam > FERSA Lunchtime Sessions > Beyond the ‘grown up child’: the quality of childness in Matilda: The Musical

Beyond the ‘grown up child’: the quality of childness in Matilda: The Musical

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Matilda: The Musical demonstrates how moving from page to stage can provide new approaches to the vexed issue of maturation in children’s stories. This adaptation’s major innovation is its ethos of liberation from pedantic narrative control, created through a consistent attention to the child characters’ interest in telling stories, both fictional and biographical. The tension between revolution and conservatism in Dahl’s writing for children is readily evident in the original 1988 novel; the characters, though typically extreme, never break the familiar structure of the storybook English village, where polite children are the ideal and narrator knows best. In the musical, however, the adaptors’ specific construction of the singing child as the essential storytelling vehicle results in the staging of an active, present negotiation between child and adult actors and audience members over the values of ‘childness’ and ‘adultness’, as well as a heightened sense of childhood as both a distinct experience and a transient phase. Awareness of this paradox as a fluid model of maturation can be summarised as a dialogue between two songs, ‘Naughty’ and ‘ When I Grow Up’, which will serve as the centre of my analysis in this paper.

This talk is part of the FERSA Lunchtime Sessions series.

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