REVIEW: The Little Match Girl and Other Happier Tales

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It’s a profound success and done with so much heart and magic.

Company: Shakespeare Globe and Bristol Old Vic Production

Production: The Little Match Girl and Other Happier Tales

Date: 07/03/2018

5/5 Stars

The Concept: A Hans Christian Anderson extravaganza framed by the story of The Little Match Girl. For every match she strikes a story is told – we start with Thumbelina, then move onto The Emperor’s New Clothes and lastly to The Princess and the Pea. Told in rhythmic poem – not too dissimilar to Shakespeare’s rhyming structure, each story is a beautiful bedtime story of the highest calibre.

The production, originated by the Shakespeare Globe and Bristol of Vic, utilizes, song, puppetry, dance, a live band of minstrels, spoken word and acting to make a well-rounded stage production.

The Successes: So much good here, and on so many levels. Let me start to unpack….

The Little Match Girl aims to hit the audience where it feels the most – somewhere below the brain but above the gut, this is a production full of heart and not saccharine but sincere in its earnest efforts. Even the puppets are full of emotion and the little match girl (stunningly puppeteered by Edie Edmundson) broke my heart a hundred times over seeing her impoverished and a constant reminder throughout the entire production of those less fortunate in the world. Possibly the saddest story ever told, besides Oscar Wilde’s ‘The Happy Prince’ is Hans Christian Anderson’s ‘The Little Match Girl’ and this production did not disappoint in bringing the emotional core of the story to the stage.

The talent on stage was immense. A small but mighty cast that were full of talent and spectacle. Katy Owen, Niall Ashdown, Kezrena James, Karl Queensborough, Guy Hughes, and Elizabeth Westcott made up the core performers on stage and they gave every ounce of talent they had to the production. You can tell these are incredibly skilled company of craftsman/women who build each character, and each scene in deliberate ways, no matter how sublime and surreal the moment they are in. Comedy was Niall Ashdown’s domain and the man had us laughing and constantly engaged. Particular nod of respect goes out to Katy Owen and Kezrena James who were powerhouses in each of their performances. With such uniquely strong cast across the board, the audience simply could not take their attention away from the production. We were engaged for every moment of it.

 Staging and costumes were perfect (especially the Emperor’s New Clothes!), music and onstage talent were perfect, puppets were perfect. Nothing let this production down. Possibly what I enjoyed the most was that this was an original retelling of these beautiful Hans Christian Anderson stories that used all assets of the stage to tell the tales while pulling together some profound themes. Folks, this is what I would describe as ‘proper theatre’. Very, very innovative.

The Setbacks: I really struggled to find fault with this production and all I can comment on (and this is really pulling at straws here), is that I would have liked to see the contemporary dances between the Prince and Princess in ‘The Princess and the Pea’ be more full on contemporary dance and dramatic. I think that would have built some impact in that story.

Final Thoughts: Would the ladies see this production again? Without hesitation. It’s a profound success and done with so much heart and magic. My only sadness was that this production was not filled to the gills. This production is playing at the Buxton Opera House until March 10th. It’s one of the best productions I have seen in a long time, I strongly recommend you seeing this production before it disappears into the cold winter’s night.

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