Two Matildas and two Miss Trunchbulls add up to double the schoolroom trouble in Pick Me Up Theatre’s unruly musical Matilda Jr

Bookworm Matilda Wormwood (Aimee Dean-Hamilton) takes on the vile headmistress Miss Trunchbull (Jack Hambleton) with her special powers in Pick Me Up Theatre’s production of Matilda: The Musical Jr. Picture: Matthew Kitchen

HOW would Sam Steel, one of a brace of Miss Trunchbulls on Pick Me Up Theatre school play duty, sum up Roald Dahl’s joyous girl-power romp Matilda: The Musical Jr.

“It’s insane!” he decides. “There’s certainly anarchy. Everything that you think will happen won’t happen!”

Pick Me Up’s bright young things – some as young as six ­– are revelling in Robert Readman’s ebullient production all this week at Theatre@41, Monkgate, York, led by Sam Steel and Jack Hambleton’s outrageous headmistress, Miss Trunchbull, and Aimee Dean-Hamilton and Juliette Sellamuttu’s Matilda, the precocious, courageous pupil with special powers and limitless imagination, as they alternate performances.

“It’s all about beating the child bully with the help of loveable teacher Miss Honey as they take on the hateful Miss Trunchbull, the Olympic hammer-throwing champion of 1969,” says Robert.  “Not that any Olympic Games were held in 1969, but the line in the song rhymed!

“Miss Trunchbull is apparently based on Alastair Sim’s headmistress in the St Trinian’s films, when he was so good playing it as a character – and also playing the twin brother – that you don’t think of the headmistress as male or female, just as a character.”

Jack adds: “It’s a woman but she’s so butch! Play Miss Trunchbull as a woman and it doesn’t work, but play it as a man who happens to have boobs and big shoulders and a hairpiece, it works!

“I try to bring out the most grotesque elements of myself and there’s a bit in there too of the teachers that I don’t like! It’s about getting the physicality right and the tone of the voice.”

When Sam is playing Miss Trunchbull, Jack takes the role of Matilda’s dreadful dad, slimy car salesman Mr Wormwood, and vice versa. “We’ve watched each in rehearsal but I don’t think we’ve ever discussed the roles with each other,” says Sam. “We just instinctively took a bit of each other’s performance.”

Robert chips in: “But they’re physically different, their voices are different, their mannerisms are different. Sam is blond, Jack darker, so they have their different hairpieces too.”

Clash of wills: Sam Steel’s headmistress Miss Trunchbull and Juliette Sellamuttu’s highly imaginative pupil, Matilda, in Pick Me Up Theatre’s Matilda: The Musical Jr. Picture: Matthew Kitchen 

Likewise, Aimee, ten, and Juliette, nine, are “very different actresses”, says Robert, who welcomed the chance to have contrasting Matildas. “They didn’t audition for Matilda, but when did auditions for singing roles, they came out of the pack,” says Robert.

“I was kind of expecting to get a small role, so it was a bit of shock,” says Aimee. “But not like an electric shock!” says Juliette, who felt “very surprised” to be picked for the title role.

If Aimee could choose a special power, it would be “maybe healing people”. Juliette first liked the thought of being able to use the swish of a hand “if someone is being naughty”, then changed tack. “I’d like to make inanimate objects animate, like asking a stuffed animal to barge its way out of a window,” she says.

Juliette, whose father is Sri Lankan and mother, Polish, has been living in York for a year. “Before I came here, in Sri Lanka, I did a line as a witch in a small assembly piece for Halloween, when I was at Gateway College in Colombo,” she says.

Aimee, meanwhile, has performed with one of York’s leading amateur societies. “I’ve done shows in theatres with Steve Tearle for NE Musicals York,” she says.

On Readman’s stage design, bedecked in a multitude of letters to reflect bookworm Matilda’s love of words and spelling, Sam and Jack are throwing themselves with gusto into the appalling behaviour of Miss Trunchbull.

“It’s more interesting that she’s not just a villain, she’s an absolute monster,” says Jack. “It’s probably the most evil person I’ve played, which is a nice contrast after playing Adrian Mole – and I get to throw a girl [Amanda Thripp] by her pigtails!”

Please note, Amanda is played by a doll at this juncture, one of several little tricks up Robert Readman’s sleeve that add to the fun and games of a delightfully unruly show with a gleefully rebellious book by Dennis Kelly and smart, fun, bouncy songs by Tim Minchin, replete with such titles as Naughty, Chokey Chant and Revolting Children.

Pick Me Up Theatre in Matilda: The Musical Jr, Theatre@41, Monkgate, York, until Sunday. Performances: 7.30pm, tonight, tomorrow and Saturday; 2.30pm, Saturday and Sunday. All SOLD OUT. A special performance of songs from a new musical, Prodigy, featuring the cast of Matilda, opens each show. Box office for returns only:

Pick Me Up Theatre’s poster for Matilda: The Musical Jr. All remaining shows have sold out

More Things To Do in and around York as records are set straight and dark nights lit up. List No. 53, courtesy of The Press, York

Setting the record straight: Adrian Lukis’s roguish George Wickham in Being Mr Wickham at York Theatre Royal

AUTUMN’S fruits are ripe and ready for Charles Hutchinson to pick with no worries about shortages.

Scandal of the week: Being Mr Wickham, Original Theatre Company, York Theatre Royal, tonight until Saturday, 7.30pm; 2.30pm, Saturday

ADRIAN Lukis played the vilified George Wickham in the BBC’s television adaptation of Pride And Prejudice 26 years ago this very month.

Time, he says, to set the record straight about Jane Austen’s most charmingly roguish character in his one-man play Being Mr Wickham, co-written with Catherine Curzon.

This is the chance to discover Wickham’s version of famous literary events. What really happened with Mr Darcy? What did he feel about Lizzie? What went on at Waterloo? Not to mention Byron. Box office: 01904 623568 or at

Cate Hamer in rehearsal for the SJT and Live Theatre, Newcastle co-production of The Offing. Picture: Tony Bartholomew

Play of the week outside York: The Offing, Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, until October 30

IN a Britain still reeling from the Second World War, Robert Appleyard sets out on an adventure at 16: to walk from his home in Durham to Scarborough, where he hopes to find work, but he never arrives there. 

Instead, up the coast at Robin Hood’s Bay, a chance encounter with the bohemian, eccentric Dulcie Piper leads to a lifelong, defining friendship. She introduces him to the joys of good food and wine, art and literature; he helps her lay to rest a ghost in Janice Okoh’s adaptation of Benjamin Myers’s novel for the SJT and Live Theatre, Newcastle. Box office: 01723 370541 or at  

Simon Wright: Conducting York Guildhall Orchestra at York Barbican

Classic comeback: York Guildhall Orchestra, York Barbican, Saturday, 7.30pm

YORK Guildhall Orchestra return to the concert stage this weekend after the pandemic hiatus with a programme of operatic favourites, conducted by Simon Wright.

The York musicians will be joined by Leeds Festival Chorus and two soloists, soprano Jenny Stafford, and tenor Oliver Johnston, to perform overtures, arias and choruses by Tchaikovsky, Wagner, Rossini, Mozart, Puccini and Verdi. Box office:

Adam Kay: Medic, author and comedian, on visiting hours at Grand Opera House, York, on Sunday

Medical drama of the week: Adam Kay, This Is Going To Hurt, Secret Diaries Of A Junior Doctor, Grand Opera House, Sunday, 8pm

ADAM Kay, medic turned comic, shares entries from his diaries as a junior doctor in his evening of horror stories from the NHS frontline, savvy stand-up, witty wordplay and spoof songs.

His award-winning show, This Going To Hurt, has drawn 200,000 people to sell-out tours, the Edinburgh Fringe and West End runs, and the book of the same name topped the best sellers list for more than a year and is soon to be a BBC drama. Box office: 0844 871 7615 or at

Boyzlife: Keith Duffy and Brian McFadden unite in Boyzone and Westlife songs at York Barbican

Irish night of the week: Boyzlife, York Barbican, Sunday, 7.30pm; doors, 6.30pm

PUT Irish boy band graduates Brian McFadden, from Westlife, and Keith Duffy, from Boyzone, together and they become Boyzlife, as heard on the July 2020 album Strings Attached, recorded with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.

On tour with a full band, but not the ‘Phil’, they choose songs from a joint back catalogue of 18 number one singles and nine chart-topping albums.

So many to squeeze in…or not: No Matter What, Flying Without Wings, World Of Our Own, Queen Of My Heart, Picture Of You, Uptown Girl, You Raise Me Up, Going Gets Tough, Swear It Again, Father And Son, Love Me For A Reason and My Love. Find out on Sunday. Box office:

Thumper: Dublin band play Ad Nauseam and much more at Fulford Arms, York, on Tuesday

 Loudest gig of the week: Thumper, Fulford Arms, York, Tuesday, 8pm

THUMPER, the cult Dublin band with two thumping drummers, are back on the road after you know what, promoting a 2021 mix of their single Ad Nauseam: a cautionary tale of repetition, vanity and becoming too close to what you know will eat you.

From the Irish city of the equally visceral Fontaines DC and The Murder Capital, Thumper have emerged with their ragged guitars and “bratty, frenetic punk rock” (Q magazine).

Now their debut album is taking shape after the band were holed up in their home studio for months on end. The Adelphi, Hull, awaits on Wednesday.

At the fourth time of planning: Mary Coughlan, Pocklington Arts Centre, Tuesday, 8pm

Mary Coughlan: Life Stories in song at Pocklington Arts Centre

GALWAY jazz and blues chanteuse Mary Coughlan had to move her Pocklington show three times in response to the stultifying pandemic.

“Ireland’s Billie Holliday” twice rearranged the gig during 2020, and did so again this year in a switch from April 23 to October 19.

At the heart of Mary’s concert, fourth time lucky, will still be Life Stories, her 15th album, released on the wonderfully named Hail Mary Records last September. Box office: 01759 301547 or at

Spiers & Boden: Resurrected folk duo head to Pocklington on Wednesday

Double act of the week ahead: Spiers & Boden, Pocklington Arts Centre, Wednesday, 7.30pm

AFTER years of speculation, much-loved English folk duo Spiers & Boden are back together, releasing the album Fallow Ground and bringing a live show to Pocklington this autumn with special guests. 

First forming a duo in 2001, John Spiers, now 46, and Jon Boden, 44, became leading lights in big folk band Bellowhead, resting the duo in 2014, before Bellowhead headed into the sunset in 2016. Solo endeavours ensued but now Spiers & Boden return. Box office: 01759 301547 or at

Matilda takes on Miss Trunchbull in Matilda The Musical Jr

Musical of the week: Roald Dahl’s Matilda The Musical Jr, Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, October 20 to 24, 7.30pm; 2pm, 4.30pm, Saturday; 2pm, Sunday.

ONLY the last few tickets are still available for York Stage Musicals’ York premiere of the Broadway Junior version of Dennis Kelly and Tim Minchin’s stage adaptation of Roald Dahl’s story.

Matilda has astonishing wit, intelligence, imagination…and special powers! Unloved by her cruel parents, she nevertheless impresses teacher Miss Honey, but mean headmistress Miss Trunchbull hates children and just loves thinking up new punishments for those who fail to abide by her rules. Hurry, hurry to the box office: 01904 501935 or at

KMA Creative Collective artist Kit Monkman studies KMA’s commission for York Mediale, People We Love. Picture: Tony Bartholomew

Worth noting too:

PEOPLE We Love, the York Mediale installation, reopening at York Minster from Saturday. York Design Week, full of ideas, October 20 to 26, at yorkdesign; Light Night Leeds 2021, with a Back To Nature theme for this art and lights festival tonight and tomorrow, at; Live At Leeds gigs across 20 venues with Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes, Sports Team, The Night Café, The Big Moon, Dream Wife, Poppy Adjuda, The Orielles and Thumper, at