Terrific Retelling Of Hans Christian Andersen Story At The Tabard

Talented cast bounce through 37 musical numbers in Little Match Girl

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We Meet Aimee Barrett, Josie In The Little Match Girl

The Little Match Girl is at the Tabard Theatre Bath Road from 7 - 31 December
Tickets 020 8995 60355

You can book online at www.tabardtheatre.co.uk or by calling the box office 020 8995 6035.

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This is a terrific retelling of the Hans Christian Andersen story as an extremely talented cast of just 11 sing and dance their way through 21 roles and 37 musical numbers, telling the story of a young girl thrown into the street by her father and told not to come back until shes sold all her matches.

Its Christmas Eve and the song Mistletoe & Wine is woven through, subtly at first until it bursts through in the second act and they all join in at the end. A surprise for anybody who thought Cliff Richard was the first to sing it.

Hans Christian Andersen is well known for his fairy stories but, like his chum Charles Dickens, he was also aware of society's indifference to the plight of the poor. Hence this little story.

Emily Cochrane is perfect as the little match girl; a waif shivering in her ragged clothes pleading with the rich people in their gorgeous clothes on their way home with their Christmas shopping. Emily's got a remarkably big voice for one so small as she demonstrates in her catchy opening number about her house with no windows, no doors and no ceiling. It's nothing like yours, she explains..

image from Little Match Girl

Then she settles down to sell her matches in the hope of going home and out of the cold.
There's never a dull moment as all sorts of characters thread their way through: a pie man, a policeman, a barman, a landlord, an urchin, tarts, plenty of rich people and old women who act as a sort of Greek chorus to give us a bit of background.

Our heroin is befriended by cheeky Cockney chappie Arthur (Jack Ayres) who intriduces himself singing a catchy little number called simply Arthur's Me Name. He cleans the master's boots and hopes to be a butler one day. There are a couple of touching dreamlike sequence where they imagine how things could be, but can he really help her? Slick direction by Keith Strachan, who also wrote it, keeps things bowling along.

All the music is supplied by Richie Hart tucked away above the stage. Some of the songs are sad such as An Ordinary Life sung by Josie (Aimee Barrett) , the woman living with the Match Girl's father Jebb (Rob Hadden) who sings the equally sad You Can't Come Home. And some are very funny as in the duet with the self satisfied sisters Maud (Katherine Hamilton-Hall) and Winifred (Julia Faulkner) as they warble about having better things to do than gossip with us. Thank goodness they haven't got anything better to do they're hilarious. Another witty set piece is the Kitchen Rag where Katherine pops up again as the cook in the rich man's kitchen dancing around the goose with the butler (Ian McCurrach).

But none of the jollity and humour are allowed to overshadow the heart rending wretchedness at the centre of this story. In a quiet moment when everybody's gone home and she's completely alone, the Little Match Girl lights matches to warm herself and conjure up the ghost of her beloved grandmother, as she curls up to protect herself from the snow and the relentless cold.

Take a big hankie, this ones a weepie.

Penny Flood

December 13, 2017

 

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