Katy Owen with The Little Matchgirl

The Little Matchgirl and Other Happier Tales

Malvern Theatres


A travelling Edwardian vaudeville troupe led by Ole Shuteye (Niall Ashdown) stylishly stitches Hans Christian Anderson’s fairy tales together in this dark, intense and brilliant show at Malvern Theatres.

The tragic story of the homeless matchgirl is harrowingly realistic and revealed by puppeteer Edie Edmundson on the cold snowy London streets of London among riches and greed, with each match that flares powering the creative ramblings of storyteller Ole Shuteye who, with bags of wit and charm, strikes our hearts with the first warming tale of Thumbelina.

As we all know size doesn’t matter and Thumbelina (Katy Owen) proves this theory correct as she clings precariously to glass bottles as they float over waterfalls and escapes her violent prison and doomed marriage to Mole (Guy Hughes) and child trafficking Field Mouse to follow her dreams to find happiness and not settle for anything less.

Karl Queensborough as her Swallow in shining armour rescues her heart and together they embark on a love story, a glimmer of hope in a rather bleak world - and time for an interval.

In the second act The Swan Vistas (Jon Gingell, Alex Heane and Dave Johnzy) again keep the beat throughout with their folksy numbers leading into the next tale of The Emperor’s New Clothes which is one performance I will have a job ever forgetting and it’s remarkable what can be made out of wool these days. Let’s just say the reveal at the end made all the children’s eyes pop out of their heads and tears of laughter roll down their cheeks.

The tricksters (Kay Owen and Guy Hughes) were influenced by their favourite clothing designers such as Dolce and Banana but some were obviously not intelligent enough to see the rainbow coloured finery.

The next strike of the match began the tale of The Princess and the Pea where the Princess (Kezrena James) had her authenticity tested using a pea to which the Prince was told he’d torn up the pages of their story so an unhappy ending ensued.

Nothing could be more sad though than the fatal end of The Little Matchgirl who ran out of matches to warm her bones and instead of heat, tragedy struck leaving the audience devastated and shocked but also blown away at the refreshingly honest and realistic issues dealt with in a show aimed at children.

Director Emma Rice wanted to end her final season as Artistic Director at Shakespeare’s Globe and prove that theatre does not have to be simple to engage people of all ages and backgrounds and she definitely achieved her goal. This was an inspirational and moving performance speaking fundamental truths with a sarcastic twist and a folksy score.

The Little Matchgirl and Other Happier Tales has now done a full circle and will be back at Shakespeare’s Globe until Saturday 21 April 2018. Call the box office on 020 7401 9919 or visit https://tickets.shakespearesglobe.com

Emma Trimble


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