The Little Match Girl, Lilian Baylis Studio Theatre @ Sadler's Wells - reviewed on 14th December
|Photo: Phil Conrad|
“Pretend you’re a five year old” Arthur Pita recommended when I spoke to him before a performance of his latest work, The Little Match Girl. But such a young mindset was unnecessary. Whilst his choreography is evidently intended for children, there is plenty to like as an adult too.
In the intimacy of the Lilian Baylis Studio Theatre, five dancers and musicians excel in his adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen’s famous story. In the freezing cold winter (powerfully conveyed by Pita’s movements and Yann Seabra’s sets), an impoverished young girl tries desperately to sell some matches, before being beaten up and having her shoes stolen by a rival seller. Colder than ever and taunted by three wealthy residents enjoying a luxurious feast, the Match Girl sets fire to their house and then runs away to curl up by her grandmother’s grave. As she dies, her grandmother appears and helps her climb to the moon where she uses her matches to light the night stars.
The piece is extremely well done, with a combination of dance, song and speech (in Italian) that perfectly expresses the characters’ personalities and the hardship of the Match Girl. That is, with the exception of one very surreal scene in which the Match Girl arrives on the moon and dances with an astronaut. This bizarre interlude ruined the beautiful and emotional moment preceding it, in which the Match Girl lay dead in the snow, and should undoubtedly be cut.
This aside, The Little Match Girl is an excellent work with brilliant performances by all of the cast but especially the sprightly Corey Claire Annand in the title role. It's a sad tale for the festive season but one that captivates.