The Twilight Zone - London

The stage adaptation of the acclaimed TV series arrives in the West End.

West End Star Adrianna Bertola on Entering The Twilight Zone and Memories of Matilda

West End Star Adrianna Bertola on Entering The Twilight Zone and Memories of Matilda
Adrianna Bertola and the stars of "The Twilight Zone"
(Photo: Johan Persson)

Adrianna Bertola was a pintsized powerhouse in the title role of Matilda the Musical, played Gretl Von Trapp in The Sound of Music and, now age 20, has made the transition with ease to an adult acting career. She can currently be found among the cast of the West End transfer at the Ambassadors of the Almeida Theatre production of The Twilight Zone, so what better time to talk matters both surreal and otherwise with Broadway.com.

How has it felt taking American writer Anne Washburn’s stage version of this iconic material from the Almeida in north London and into the West End?
I think I knew at the Almeida that this would have a future life. When we left the Almeida, it didn’t feel like the end of the journey, and Anne and Richard [Jones, the director] have worked together to see how it can be made better, really. The idea has been to recreate what we had before with a few tweaks to make it slicker.

What is it like playing multiple roles across the evening?
Our whole cast in a sense is “multi-role-ing” [laughs]. I play several main characters but there are also a few ensemble roles, so it feels as if I’m constantly onstage or doing something offstage. The costume and makeup and wig departments are so amazing when it comes to these transformations that I look at myself and think, “I am that character.” It gives you that extra boost.

Aren’t you too young, though, to have really clocked what The Twilight Zone TV series was?
Well, my parents definitely knew about it, and I was 16 when I started studying media. So, I’d seen some episodes and kind of knew how the series worked and about the acting style. It’s funny watching the programs now because they didn’t have the technology and the special effects then that we have become used to, and our acting style nowadays is much more naturalistic than you see on the show.

Were you encouraged to watch various episodes as part of your preparation?
Richard’s attitude was really watch as much as you want—or don’t. I watched a few just to get a sense of the style and how it changes: some [episodes] are more farcical and others are more like psychological thrillers. The intention with our show is to honor the series without making a mockery of it, so it’s about finding that balance.

Do you think Anne's play tries to connect up a decades-old series to the surreal times we inhabit today?
Absolutely! I think you’ll be able to see something of yourself or the world around you in every episode, and there are all sorts of moments that allow for self-reflection, even if not in a huge dose. We’ve tried, too, to find some humanity within a landscape that may not always seem to resemble reality.

Now that you’ve just arrived into your 20s, how do you look back on the childhood renown you achieved in the title role of Matilda?
You know, that honestly does feel like a different life and it was 11 years ago! In some ways it’s really weird because I remember it so vividly, but at the same time, it feels so far away and I have come so far.

Are you actively reminded of it by the musical's ongoing West End run at the Cambridge Theatre?
I still walk past it almost every day and it’s such a happy memory. I’ve been back a couple of times to do some songs from the show for anniversaries or whatnot and sometimes I think I would go back but you never know; you literally never know.

Do you see yourself ever returning to Matilda to take on one of the adult roles?
A lot of people have said, “Would you play Mrs. Wormwood or Miss Honey?” and, I mean, I wouldn’t say no, but it would be a different experience. It wouldn’t be like a memory from what I had before.

Do you keep in touch with any of the other Matildas or with your unforgettable Trunchbull, Bertie Carvel, who is now on Broadway in Ink?
Most of us do keep in touch and chat and are always keen to see what the others are up to; I went to see [former Matilda] Eleanor Worthington Cox in one of the shows she was in, and that was lovely. Bertie came to see The Twilight Zone at the Almeida, where he had first done Ink and he recognized me straight away. He’s such a kind-hearted soul and ridiculously talented: I have no doubt he’s smashing it on Broadway.

What about The Sound of Music, which you did when you were even younger?
That was kind of like a dream; it feels like so long ago. That was obviously the first West End show that I did [when she was seven] and without that, my life could have been extremely different.

What was the experience like at that age?
I just remember always smiling, even if I shouldn’t have been because it was a sad scene. My parents used to tell me that as the curtain dropped I would lay on the stage because I didn’t want the curtain to go down.

Is it ever tempting to look at your younger self on YouTube?
Occasionally ,if I’m feeling really nostalgic, or if I have seen someone or bumped into someone that makes me reflective. But I don’t really tend to watch me singing, no.

Do you scan the current musical theater scene to see what might be out there for you?
I do keep an eye out. My rule is don’t wait for the phone to ring: you have to keep your eyes and ears open. There are so many things where I think, “I wish I’d seen that when I was auditioning.” I like to be educated as to what’s in the pipeline as much as I possibly can.

Anything out there just now that appeals?
Dear Evan Hansen, absolutely! I love that story and it’s one of my favorite musicals. It would be amazing to play the part that Laura Dreyfuss had on Broadway, but I don’t know if I’m the right age or the right casting. But that’s one of the roles I’m keeping an eye on. As they say in this business, you never know.