From The Straits Times    |

“Even if you’re little, you can do a lot.” This poignant line from Matilda: The Musical, inspired by Roald Dahl’s 1988 novel, perfectly encapsulates the journey of the talented young actresses – Yolani Balfour, Donna Craig, and Myla Williams – stepping into the spotlight as Matilda in the award-winning musical.

Crafted with a book by Dennis Kelly and original songs by Tim Minchin, Matilda: The Musical narrates the tale of an extraordinary little girl armed with a vivid imagination and a sharp mind. She dares to take a stand, rewriting her destiny in the process.

Matilda: The Musical is set to make its return to Singapore. Credit: Hanan Assor

With the award-winning musical set to return to Singapore at the Sands Theatre at Marina Bay Sands from 9 March 2024, we seized the opportunity to chat with the three actresses – Yolani, Donna, and Myla – about embodying the titular character.

These young powerhouses, who are full of resilience, intelligence, and boundless courage (just like Matilda!), share their insights into the process of bringing the character to life on stage with a refreshing (and very adorable) candour.

What inspired each of you to pursue a career in theatre at such a young age?

Myla: I have always loved performing and I have always wanted to perform form a very young age.

Yolani: The bug bit when I did a show for my Academy and I loved it. I was 7 years old.

Donna: My Mom is my main inspiration, as she was part of the entertainment industry herself.

Donna Craig. Credit: Hanan Assor

What excites you the most about performing in Matilda the Musical?

Myla: It is exciting to work on stage with other performers and to share the story of Matilda with the world. I have always loved the stories of Roald Dahl.

Yolani: The excitement of kids watching the show and knowing that I inspire some of them.

Donna: I just love sharing in the joy of live theatre, travelling Internationally, which takes us to so many amazing places, and experiencing so many new cultures.

How do you approach the process of portraying Matilda?

Myla: Thinking about the character and imagining her feelings and what her life would be like with such parents, a headmistress and a teacher like Miss Honey.

Yolani: I try not to be my happy, smiley self.

Donna: During my quiet time before the show, I focus on being Matilda.

Yolani Balfour. Credit: Hanan Assor

Matilda is a symbol of empowerment and determination. How has portraying this character impacted each of you personally?

Myla: I have always been someone who stands up to things that aren’t right; being brave and not afraid to be myself and have my own opinions.

Yolani: It’s made me more determined to stand up for what’s right and not just for myself, but for others around me.

Donna: I feel I can achieve anything I put my mind to.

What are the most memorable moments from your time working on “Matilda the Musical” that you’d like to share with our readers?

Myla: The experience of having a live audience interacting and acknowledging my performance is really special and fulfilling. Seeing and experiencing all the different cultures from all the countries we visit, is exciting for me.

Yolani: The thrill and excitement of the first ever show I did. And the travelling!

Donna: The most memorable moments on tour include Westend theatre shows, The Great Wall Of China, visits to the Burj Khalifa and Shanghai Disney Resort.

Can you share any specific challenges you faced in embodying Matilda’s spirit, and how did you overcome them?

Myla: It was challenging to not over express the character, as Matilda keeps all her feelings inside; and trusting that I do not have to do too much with the character. I feel this for me is still a work in progress.

Yolani: Trying not to laugh and smile while onstage!

Donna: I struggled with Matilda’s accent, so I had a dialect coach to help me during rehearsals.

Myla Williams. Credit: Hanan Assor

What messages from the musical resonate with you the most?

Myla: “Even if you little you can do a lot…” the size of the person should not influence how much attention we pay to them. “That’s not right…” because Matilda has an internal compass for fairness just like me.

Yolani: You don’t have to have a lot to be happy.

Donna: No matter your size, you can make a big difference.

Matilda the Musical by Base Entertainment Asia and GWB Entertainment in association with the Royal Shakespeare Company will return to the Sands Theatre at Marina Bay Sands from 9 March 2024.