Australian composer and actor Tim Minchin wrote the music for the international hit Matilda the Musical.
He talks to Lynn Freeman about the lessons of Roald Dahl – the unhelpfulness of hope and his addiction to trying new things.
They didn’t have to think about creating a show for children because the whole point of Matilda (and all of Roald Dahl’s work) is that the child in all of us is still alive – he says.
‘That’s kind of what Matilda is about – not letting adulthood turn you into a cynical despot’.
As a kid he was much ‘thicker’ than the character of Matilda – Minchin says.
‘It’s really fun thinking what would a five-year-old genius feel like?
And the way you can access that is because as a 35-year-old – as I was when I wrote it – I had years worth of reading books and thinking.
So I could go ‘Imagine if you had all my knowledge and you were only a five year old?’
Roald Dahl himself was a ‘damaged – sad adult with a burning imaginative child within’ he says.
‘Matilda has this moral clarity.
And I think Dahl craved that – he wished humans weren’t so corrupt.
I always felt like he thought adulthood inevitably corrupts you’.
Dahl railed against anti-intellectualism and Minchin does the same thing in his comedy – he says.
Some say the Matilda song ‘Loud’ predicted the rise of Donald Trump.
‘What you know matters less than the volume with which what you don’t know’s expressed’ sings the character Mrs Wormwood.
But Minchin says the slide towards informational relativism – ‘this idea that experts aren’t to be respected’ – was happening long before he wrote the song and long before Trump’s presidency.
‘Half of America believes completely barmy conspiracy theories. Trump is an outcome of a pattern – he didn’t invent it’.