The Little Matchgirl adapted by Emma Rice and Joel Horwood – The Lyric, Theatre Royal Plymouth
In this re-telling of four Hans Christian Anderson fairy tales, Emma Rice has perfectly captured their magic. Moving between what is seemingly the present and the magical world of Anderson’s tales, the play weaves in puppetry, song and some gorgeous choreography. For me, the most impressive element of the evening was the puppetry. Edie Edmundsen imbues the match girl puppet with astonishing humanity, her playfulness and also her desperation being palpable. It was no wonder people were crying at her inevitable fate.
The ‘happier tales’ alluded to in the title have their moments of pathos but as a whole the show is cheerful and fun. Each tale is introduced with the striking of a new match, presided over by storyteller Ole Shuteye (Niall Ashdown), a sort of vaudeville compere. My favourite individual tale was The Emperor’s New Clothes, the final ‘outfit’ reveal was bloody hilarious. All of the music in the show is brilliant too, marrying all the tales together despite their varying tones.
It was strange seeing this play in late February though. It very much feels like a Christmas piece (which it originally was), with all the warm fuzzy feelings that entails.