So far this year has been all about Matilda. Roald Dahl's story about Matilda Wormwood, the child prodigy unnoticed by her family who reads entire libraries and can move things with her eyes. That one.
It started on 6th January when Dan and I went to see Matilda The Musical, having been given tickets as a Christmas present from my parents.
If, like me, you've been looking at the posters all over London and wondering whether or not to go, then you most definitely should. I've always loved Dahl's books even though on most recent reading, it seems I was pretty scathing about Matilda! I was a little concerned that this new rendition of the story might ruin it - always a danger when it comes to new versions of old favourites. And I've never been a fan of situations in which adult actors pretend to be children. Sorry, but that ruined Blood Brothers for me.
My fears were unfounded. Matilda is an energetic and magical show, carried almost entirely by a fantastic cast of children who almost don't need the few adults drafted in to support them. Aside, of course, from Matilda's parents and two teachers. Cleo Demetriou, who played Matilda when we saw it, was absolutely amazing. Pitch perfect with a voice that could match any of the adults on stage, and her storytelling skills were excellent. Miss Trunchbull, played by Bertie Cavell, was marvellous too. And Tim Minchin's music and lyrics really carry the whole thing. True genius (and I must be right, because ALW said so too!) I could go on - there wasn't much about the whole thing that I didn't absolutely love.
A couple of weeks later I took Power Up - the 5-10 year old kids church group at the Stable. It's a very mixed group of 12-15 kids, wide ranging in age and ability making it quite hard to plan a single programme that keeps everyone engaged and happy. So I decided not to try, instead planning a range of activities and letting the children choose for themselves which ones to do. We started off together, looking at some of Paul's travels in Acts 13-14 and then I explained the activities and let them explore.
(this is relevant to Matilda, honest. Stick with it!)
One of the activities was a drama challenge, focussing on Paul and Barnabas having to be brave in some of the cities where they were less well received. The drama was simply to think of a situation where someone had to be brave and show the rest of the group a short sketch about it. Apart from a couple of boys attacking each other with "swords" the activity wasn't so popular until I encouraged one of the other boys to try it.
He spent a long time standing pens up on their end, lined up along the table. I kept an eye on him from afar and to be honest I'd decided that he was just messing around and was planning to go and "refocus" him pretty soon. I was wrong.
The pens were an army. And the fat marker pen in the middle was Goliath, about to be taken on by the tiny but bold yellow pen lid stood facing the rest. I watched as the pens acted out the story and the boy told me all about how David (the yellow pen lid) had to be brave.
I asked him to set the army up again ready to show the rest of the group, and a couple of the other kids offered to help. So at the end of the session when we all gathered to watch I was surprised to see that the story had changed!
The pens weren't an army any more. They were school children. The marker pen had changed role too, and was now playing Miss Trunchbull. The little pen lid had become Matilda, accompanied by a purple pen - Lavender of course. And the story was told of Matilda and how she was a little girl who had to be brave. Just like David was a little boy who had to be brave.
I'd never made the comparison before, but there are definite similarities. I love how much I learn from working with the kids at church!