The Little Matchgirl and Other Happier Tales - Review

This is a fascinating production: multi-layered, funny, sad and subtly referencing the global political climate. Emma Rice’s direction and Joel Horwood’s script bring Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tales to life, C21st style.

The play grips from the outset. The Little Matchgirl (puppeteer - Edie Edmundson) might be a puppet but she is so vulnerable in appearance, she tugs at the heartstrings. As she lights a match to keep warm, a tale is told. Thumbelina, the first tale, reimagines the heroine in a war-torn land, reminiscent of Syria and the plight of refugees. Thumbelina (Katy Owen) here is feisty, brave and vocal. Parts of this story are frightening - the darker aspects of fairy tales are brought to life with the villain Mole (Guy Hughes) kidnapping Thumbelina and attempting to forcibly marry her.

Ole Shuteye (Niall Ashdown), another Andersen character, is used by Horwood to narrate and interweave the tales.

The Emperor’s New Clothes provides comic relief. Ashdown plays the part of an overweening, vain leader with relish. Knowing the ending of this tale heightens the humour as the audience dreads the final reveal. Excruciating! Teased out superbly by Ashdown.

The Princess and the Pea blends Victoriana with the contemporary, reminding us that poverty and homelessness remain. Kezrena James is a likeable and engaging presence in her role as the princess.

Hilarious yet terrifying, thought provoking yet uplifting, The Little Matchgirl is a perfect production for Christmas and a timely reminder that we should have a thought for our fellow men, women and children.

© Samantha Coughlan December 2017

The Little Matchgirl and Other Happier Tales
Bristol Old Vic

6th Dec 2017

30th Nov 2017 - 14th Jan 2018

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