MUSIC theatre performer James Millar felt claustrophobic during his first costume fitting for Miss Agatha Trunchbull in Australian production Matilda the Musical.
“I was a little panicked by it; it’s extremely heavy and hot, but once you start to get used to a new body like that it’s like a second skin,” Millar said.
“I learned ways of managing to cool myself down with an ice vest, but to start with it was very confronting to put on.
“I also worried that it would swallow up the performance but it’s not that at all now. I’m James until all that gets put on (suit, costume, wig, moles and makeup) and then I’m her; it’s a lovely way to escape into a role.”
Millar, who graduated from WAAPA in 2004 and has since returned to direct, joined an elite male-only list of actors who have played Miss Trunchbull since the musical opened in Stratford-upon-Avon in 2009 before moving to London’s West End.
He said performing as Trunchbull was about finding the quality inside the monster rather then sending her up for laughs.
“It wasn’t about putting on a funny walk or doing a funny voice, it was about finding those qualities of jealousy and resentment and bitterness and treating her as a character who had dramatic purpose,” he said.
“So that you weren’t going out there and being a pantomime ham, instead you take it back to the qualities that are evident in the story.
“She’s highly jealous and resentful towards life, towards her sister, to what life gave to her and a character who is that jealous and resentful to people as young and innocent as children informs a whole lot about how she grew up and the sort of person she’s grown in to; a true bully.”
Millar said he remembered being scared of Miss Trunchbull when he read Road Dahl’s Matilda as a child and Dahl’s “dark, wonderful” books were on par with the Harry Potters and Lemony Snickets of today.
“There was always something so scary, wonderful, magical and empowering about a kid standing up to a bully,” he said.
“So if I get to be the bully in order to get to tell the story about a kid standing up to a one, then so be it. It’s more about the whole story rather than a desire to be mean to children.”
What: Matilda the Musical
Where: Crown Theatre Perth
When: February 28 to May 7