Theatre in Wales

Theatre, dance and performance reviews

A production that I shall long remember

The Little Match Girl and other Happier Tales

Bristol Old Vic and Shakespeare's Globe Theatr Clwyd. , Theatr Clwyd Mold. , February-02-18
The Little Match Girl and other Happier Tales by Bristol Old Vic and Shakespeare's Globe Theatr Clwyd. This spring Theatr Clwyd has a most impressive looking line-up of productions both homegrown and visiting. It kicks off with this co-production between Bristol Old Vic, where it was their Christmas show, and Shakespeare's Globe where it will be Emma Rice's swan song as the theatre's Artistic Director.

Her previous work directing for Kneehigh is what this show brings strongly to mind. Based on the tales of Hans Christian Andersen but set among the present day homeless, it's not afraid to emphasise the darkness and pain present in his stories. But a look at its full title reveals that hope and happiness are also present.

Framing all this is the Little Matchgirl, a beautiful puppet brought to life by Edie Edmundson, each of whose matches causes a story to leap into life when lit. They are narrated in fine showman style by Niall Ashdown; who also sets up a great rapport with the audience.

The first half belongs to Thumbelina, a tiny puppet given exquisite miniature life by Katy Owen. When she is orphaned she finds herself threatened or betrayed by beetles, a frog, a toad, a fieldmouse and, most sinister of all, a mole.

Thanks to Emma Rice's energetic direction and to the wit and imagination of Vicki Mortimer's designs there's always something to admire and enjoy but I admit I did reach the interval not feeling wholly engaged.

However, come part two and I found myself totally caught up in the production. The Emperor's New Clothes is a riot of colour, farce, silliness and the finest, and funniest revelation of the emperor's nakedness you are ever likely to see. Niall Ashdown is the epitome of narcissism in the title role with Katy Owen and Guy Hughes a magnificent pair of swindlers.

The Princess and the Pea gives Kezrena James the central role and the chance to balance precariously on a pile of mattresses.

Then, of course, at her quiet insistence we get the completion of the little match girl's sad story. There's even a very effective present day coda to bring everything to a rounded conclusion.

In spite of my slight reservations this was a production that I shall long remember and it augers well for what is to follow in Mold this spring.

Reviewed by: Victor Hallett

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