Creating Believable Characters: Matilda

Tim Minchin, writer of the music and lyrics for Matilda The Musical, discusses how he wrote songs for the show’s leading lady, Matilda.


Tim Minchin: When I was thinking about this story and thinking, the question I always asked myself was “what would this person sing about?” We know Miss Trunchbull would sing about rules and we know Mrs Wormwood would sing about being beautiful and loud. But what would Matilda sing about because she’s so complicated and she’s quite shy. She wouldn’t necessarily want to tell us what she’s feeling and if she did tell us what she was feeling it would be very hard to explain because her brain is so complicated; which is why the song that she sings in the second act starts with words that most people don’t even understand. She’s so smart that even the grown-ups in the theatre would only have a bit of an understanding of what she’s talking about. She’s talking about the theory of relativity.

Matilda (Singing): “I’m not sure, but I wonder if inside my head, I’m not just a bit different from some of my friends. These answers that come into my mind unbidden, these stories delivered to me fully written.

Tim Minchin: And then she sings about how when she does magic with her eyes it makes her feel calm. So that’s a very complicated song with complicated ideas because Matilda’s a complicated character. It took me a long time to figure out what that song would be about.