“Put it Right”: Matilda as Author in Matilda the Musical
The astronomical success of Matilda the Musical can be attributed to a variety of factors, including the popularity of Roald Dahl himself. Yet, anyone who knows the novel cannot help but notice that this award-winning musical has made significant changes to the original plot. While revisions are to be expected when novels are adapted for stage or screen, the modifications made by playwright Dennis Kelly and lyricist Tim Minchin are not just theatrically expedient choices, but also intelligent expressions of a metatextual discourse on moral values and literacy that runs through Dahl’s oeuvre. By rearranging the chronology of events and placing Matilda’s active story-telling at the heart of the theatrical experience, Kelly and Minchin have paid structural homage to earlier Dahl novels in which the hero is ultimately revealed to be the author (James and the Giant Peach, The BFG and The Witches). As in these novels, first-person narration is used in the musical to emphasize Matilda’s moral imperative to act, sometimes questionably, within the context of her specific conflict. Moreover, the musical captures the metatextual essence of the character-as-author device, which encourages the reader and audience to associate literacy with moral superiority and which places authorship at the pinnacle of achievement.
KeywordsMatilda the Musical Metatextuality Adaptation Roald Dahl Reader response
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