Comparing the evil Headmistress Miss Trunchbull, inside and out

By Madison Danielson

September 14, 2016; 11:49 am

(Editor’s Note; most of this piece is based on the student’s own knowledge and an article written for “The New York City Guide” on the musical Matilda)

The first ever actor to play Miss Trunchbull was British actor Robert “Bertie” Carvel. He currently lives in New York City and his Broadway debut happens to be Miss Trunchbull. His love life is kept super secret and whether or not he is gay.  Chris, however is openly gay and has been married to former actor Kevin Burrows (2001-now)  now a French chef. Sieber made his Broadway debut in 1997 during the musical Triumph of Love as Agis the Prince.  Two very different actors,  one thing in common: Miss Agatha Trunchbull from Matilda the Musical on Broadway. When did Matilda make its way to stage, and what is the difference between how each of them created and made this character there own?

In November of 2010, Matilda made its debut at the Courtyard Theater In Stratford, the show was not a huge success at first but, after a few simple changes the show became a hit. Now it is on Broadway at the Shubert theater but it won’t be there for long now since it has annouced on the closing date.  It is nothing like any Broadway show; not only is it for children, but for adults as well. According to the Los Angeles Times, Bertie Carvel’s character is “as severe as her chignon and as charming as Hannibal Lecter, is one of the funniest comic creations ever to grace a Broadway stage.”

Now, let’s compare the two Trunchbull’s including: 1) their looks (which means makeup and wig; who wore the costume better) and, 2)  the different ways the actors performed the pieces and how they approach this character.

First, let’s start with what both of these amazing actors have in common about this terrible character they both once played. Sieber and Carvel are both athletic guys and have college backgrounds. Also, they are very tall men which makes the character even more scary ( Chris is 6’2 and Bertie is 6’0; The director, Matthew Warchus, made sure that any actor/actress who  plays Miss Trunchbull needs to be tall). Another thing both of them have in common is they love to entertain. Not only that but if this character was indeed a nice and kind person – like Miss Honey for example – she would be way too boring and there would be no villain per say. (Well, Matilda’s parents of course) Christopher Sieber even says this himself in a interview: “she’s [Trunchbell is] not funny. It’s her behavior that’s funny.”

See, some actors do have things in common. But, what do these two amazing stars not have in common?

Sieber grew up in a small town in Minnesota, with one older brother and a younger brother; Chris was the only one to go on and become the person he is today.  In an interview with NYC City Guide, Christopher Sieber said he drew out his performance from a teacher he had growing up who looked as close to Miss Trunchbull as you can get. His first grade teacher from his home town of Minnesota was indeed Trunchbull. “ She dressed like her, except all in black,” he said. “She had those big Minnie Mouse, orthopedic shoes, a skirt, no makeup, and hair in a bun with pins. She would hit you in the back of your head, tape your mouth shut, and smack you with a ruler. When I first saw Trunchbull’s costume, I said, ‘That’s Miss Erickson!’ ” Terrible person no? Carvel on the other did not have any teachers like this evil character. “I certainly wouldn’t point a crooked finger at any one person,” he says. “Trunchbull’s a composite of characteristics—some horrible, some more sympathetic—which are drawn from my experience.” Carvel had his own way of becoming this character and seeing how he made the Trunch who she is today.“For something to be frightening and meaningful, it’s better if it’s grounded in truth,” he says. “The only real way of doing that is to get lost in it each time you do it.”

The director talks about what they see in these actors as Miss Trunchbull. Matthew Warchus; the director of Matilda the Musical talks about Bertie Carvel character.  Saying . “His performance is rather savage and certainly bizarre. He’s committed to Trunchbull’s insanity without winking to the audience in any way. And he can handle the quicksilver shifts of mood. It moves very quickly from silliness to cruelty to beauty and profundity and back to absurd low comedy.”

Now that you know  about these 2 very different actors who do you think was a better Trunchbull? Answer at the link below:


Work Cited

Richards, Elliot. “Christopher Sieber on thrilling in Matilda.” NYC’s Original City Guide,  Series 11,, October 8, 2015.  New York.


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