A returning triumph for choreographer of the moment Arthur Pita, The Little Match Girl transforms a heart-breaking Christmas classic into a fantastical fairytale adventure, and a quirky Christmas ballet, 2016.
On Christmas Eve in a snow-dusted Italian town, under distant winter stars, the Little Match Girl plies her humble wares to a rich Italian family. Like everyone else, they push her aside, and she retreats to her grandmother’s tomb in the cemetery for comfort. But Christmas Eve is no ordinary night, and the grandmother appears in a vision to carry the Little Match Girl away from her troubles to the magical world of the moon.
Combining his ecstatic choreography with a scattering of Italian operatics, some truly original live music and Yann Seabra’s innovative but unpretentious set, Arthur Pita plays to his dance theatre roots. The rather grim Hans Christian Anderson fairytale retains a sly streak of the brutal (this is Pita, after all) but is transformed into a fantastical adventure, complete with lunar exploration vehicles and a weightless pas de deux with an astronaut.
Not only here the victim of circumstance, the Little Match Girl is the target for the rather vindictive discipline of the Italian family she attempts to sell to. They're a gruesome bunch, quaffing champagne and tossing panettone in the air, flashing polite faces to cover their snarls at the barefoot little girl. Two little children sat in front of our reviewer squirmed in indignation at their behaviour, before hiding their eyes at the snarls then hopping excitedly in their seats at the astronaut's arrival.
Frank Moon’s mix of live and pre-recorded music is more like a soundscape than a score, filling in narrative details like an extra character. He remains to the side of the stage, surrounded by a heap of instruments (he'll get through them all in the course of the show) and staring weirdly out at the audience through black shadowed eyes. Another gem of the piece is dancer Angelo Smimmo’s countertenor voice, layering richly over his fellows.
Corey Annand, who played Greta Samsa in the Arthur Pita Metamorphosis at Covent Garden, dances a little girl by turns vulnerable and youthfully optimistic. The steps channel Oliver Twist as much as Frederick Ashton, full of spry barefoot leaps and snapping heels. And they’re not the only Dickensian element - costumes just the right side of pantomime keep the piece planted in a dreamy period atmosphere.
Named “a gem,” and “wonderfully inventive,” by critics, the whole production sparkles with stars and little match flames. It’s enchanting for all the family, and a great opportunity to catch a raucous choreographer for once happy to settle for telling a great story.
|What||The Little Match Girl, Lilian Baylis Studio review|
Rosebery Avenue, London, EC1R 4TN | MAP
|Nearest tube||Angel (underground)|
10 Dec 16 – 30 Dec 16, Shows at 11am, 1pm, 3pm, 5pm and 7pm depending on the day
|Website||Click here to book via the Sadler's Wells website|