WHEN it comes to choosing who should receive the annual Mum of the Year Award, Rebecca Thornhill admits that she’s not likely to be in consideration.

In fact, as Mrs Wormwood in the hit musical Matilda, she’s giving the ultimate lesson in how not to be a parent direct from the stage of Manchester’s Palace Theatre.

“She is pretty awful isn’t she?” laughed Rebecca, “but she’s been part of my life for over three years now so I’m actually rather fond of her.”

Rebecca starred in the adaptation of the Roald Dahl children’s favourite for two years in London’s West End before returning to the show for its first tour of the UK.

As the self-obsessed, ballroom dancing loving Mrs Wormwood, she completely fails to realise her daughter Matilda is a genius. Completely ignoring her most of the time, she occasionally issues totally inappropriate words of wisdom including the classic line “looks is more important that books”.

“It’s always better to play the darker characters,” said Rebecca. “She’s really colourful and there’s lots to work with.

“She’s a baddie who doesn’t even know she’s a baddie. It’s just the way she is - and that’s what makes her awful. She is just so selfish and doesn’t consider anything apart for herself in the world.

“Probably deep down she knows that she is quite shallow but there is nothing really that she can do about it.”

Matilda is a spectacular, multi-award winning musical version of the Roald Dahl classic produced by the Royal Shakespeare Company. Unlike the book in which Mrs Wormwood’s all-consuming passion was bingo, it is dancing and salsa in particular which dominates her life in the stage show.

“I think bingo might have been a bit easier than ballroom dancing,” said Rebecca, “especially at my age!”

Rebecca, 49, has starred in a number of West End musicals including Mary Poppins, Chicago, Beauty and the Beast and The Witches of Eastwick and believes that Matilda is a special show.

“There isn’t a day when I don’t laugh,” she said. “The whole show is just fun to be part of.”

Matilda is enjoying a 10-week run in Manchester and audiences are loving it. As someone who has been closely connected to the show for so long, Rebecca is in an ideal position to judge what makes it such a success.

“I think that Roald Dahl was a child at heart.” she said. “He wasn’t afraid to bring in the dark side of things which is very interesting.”

Rebecca has had to get used to becoming a hate object for youngsters in the audience.

“At first you’re natural reaction is ‘I don’t want them to hate me’ but actually that’s what they need to and to be honest, it’s brilliant,” she said. “If you tried to make Mrs Wormwood more likeable that just wouldn’t work.”

Unpopular as she may be, Rebecca’s character pales into insignificance compared to the real villain of the piece - Miss Trunchbull, played by Craige Els.

“Oh, Trunchbull is the best character - and yes I am slightly jealous,” she laughed. “There’s something weird about her being played by a man which really works. Women in the audience particularly have this strange reaction to Craige. There is an odd charm of a man being a woman. But it’s not like pantomime, it’s much darker than that.”

Rebecca’s will remain with the show until August next year when the tour comes to an end.

“It’s some tour,” she said. “But as anyone in our profession will tell you, it’s good to be working. But this is something special.

“Also it means that for once, I can actually plan things which is unheard of.

“We do get some holidays built into the tour schedule. When you are out of work you know that if you’ve booked a holiday that will be the week they will call you in for the audition you have been waiting five months for. With this, for once, you can have something approaching an organised life.”

Rebecca has worked with a number of the cast on the show in London which has helped create a great spirit on tour.

There is also an ever-changing line-up of young actors playing Matilda and the other children in the show - they are too young to stay with the tour permanently.

“That really does add a different dimension to things,” said Rebecca. “I really only work directly with Matilda and all of them are very different.

“But they are all so amazingly talented. They are young and they just go for it. They don’t have any fear.”

Matilda the Musical, Palace Theatre, Manchester, until Saturday, November 24. Details from 0844 871 3019 or www.atgtickets.com