Roald Dahl's Matilda is coming to Mayflower Theatre, and its Miss Trunchbull is having a blast

Carly Thoms as Miss Honey and Elliot Harper as Miss Trunchbull in the Royal Shakespeare Company's Matilda The Musical at Mayflower Theatre, June/July 2019. Picture by Manuel Harlan'
Carly Thoms as Miss Honey and Elliot Harper as Miss Trunchbull in the Royal Shakespeare Company's Matilda The Musical at Mayflower Theatre, June/July 2019. Picture by Manuel Harlan'
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In a previous stage role Elliot Harper was a priest trying to cast a demon out of a possessed girl in The Exorcist.

But since January he’s been the one doing the scaring – albeit in a more child-friendly production, playing the fearsome headteacher Miss Trunchbull in Matilda: The Musical.

The character is memorably described in Roald Dahl’s original book as a ‘gigantic holy terror, a fierce tyrannical monster who frightened the life out of pupils and teachers alike.’

The Royal Shakespeare Company brings the multi-award winning musical to Hampshire, telling the story of an extraordinary little girl who, armed with a vivid imagination dares to take a stand and change her destiny.

Elliot had been part of the show's West End cast as The Escapologist before auditioning for Miss Trunchbull, and took over from his friend Craige Els in the role back in January.

Did Elliot ask his friend for any tips before going for the part?

‘Craige’s amazing and he did give me some sound words of advice – mostly technical stuff and things to do with endurance and stamina.

‘Being aggressive takes up a lot of energy, and her numbers are quite epic – they’re big numbers, being that animated and frantic and front-footed, it’s taxing but it’s great fun.’

And of course, he was a fan of the story and Roald Dahl before joining the cast. ‘I think everybody is, aren’t they? I knew it really well – I read it as a child, and the [1996] film’s fantastic as well. This is quite a dark take on it though, I would say, which is how I think it was intended to be.’

The musical’s book was written by Dennis Kelly with songs by the comedian Tim Minchin.

‘Tim Minchin’s still involved as much as he can be, I met him when I was in London, but he’s not seen me as Miss Trunchbull. He’s a great guy. He’s so random, he’s got this very avant garde way with words, but he’s still very relatable, which makes him the perfect choice for the music and lyrics – they’re relatable but quirky.’

And of course, there are all his child co-stars, including the four Matildas.

‘They’re amazing,’ says Elliot. ‘They’re drilled very hard to get to where they need to be, but the result is something else. Getting to know them is a really enjoyable part of what we do. They’re all different and they’re sweet kids. It’s wonderful to see them develop and how they change over the run. Inevitably, when they start they’re all in a very similar place, but as the run goes on and they get more comfortable with it they develop their own little quirks and their own way through it. It’s lovely to see and lovely to see them be the stars of the show – they’re carrying a multimillion pound venture which is incredible.’​​​​​​​

Matilda

Mayflower Theatre, Southampton

June 11-July 6

mayflower.org.uk