Based on the story by: Hans Christian Andersen
Choreographer: Arthur Pita
Reviewer: Charlotte Broadbent
This month The Lowry has an exciting range of dance performancess. Alongside Arthur Pita’s The Little Match Girl (performed in the Quays Theatre) they have the National Ballet of China’s Peony Pavilion on their Lyric stage (both performances are heading down to Sadlers Wells next month). Then Matthew Bourne is in town again next week with his take on The Red Shoes. With such large scale productions happening The Little Match Girl has become the hidden gem in this illustrious collection. Small it may be but its effects are colossal. The tale is one that many will know and this version comprising dance, singing and pantomime makes this sorrowful story tragic yet heart warming and still conveying a relevant message today.
Pita has been loyal to the Germanic folk lore tale and the piece works well in its Italian setting. The time is still the 1800s but a slightly surreal sci-fi ending does require a little leap of faith from the audience. But then, dramatic license is permitted when the piece is so good. The performance style is rooted in traditional Italian pantomime and commedia from the chalk white faces with rouged cheeks to the facial expressions that do much in conveying the story as all of the spoken words are in Italian.
The small ensemble of four (who play 11 characters between them) is incredible. Corey Annand as the little match girl is delightful. Her beaming face and neat, spry dancing make her appear like a living doll, further adding to the fairytale element. She inspires great empathy and spirit. Angelo Smimmo is diverse playing roles such as the greedy Father of the Donnarumma family and then the match girl’s Grandma which he undertakes with heart and a beautiful singing voice. Karl Fagerlund Brekke too plays a varied mix of roles, most notably the friendly lamplighter whose pas de deux with the little match girl is a real highlight of the performance. Joyful and charming. Valentina Golfieri is outstanding, whether the bullish rival match seller or the brattish child of the Donnarumma family her dynamic dancing and, at times, grotesque facial expressions make her the ideal villain.
Frank Moon’s compositions are sublime, immediately conjuring 19th century Italy. Tim Van Eyken is the live musician who plays each instrument, from an accordion to a theremin. He too is made up with the pale face and rouged cheeks of an old world pantomime and his gentle accordion playing as the audience find their seats is the first of many ingredients that make this piece so inviting.
Throughout the performance, Ed Yetton’s bold lighting design transports you through the city streets, through time of night and eventually around the world. The lighting is atmospheric and makes infinite use of a limited space.
If you’re looking for an alternative Christmas show for the family Arthur Pita has come up with an elegant solution that is both fantastical yet traditional, making an old fable relevant, captivating, mad and delightful. With a run time of one hour it is captivating for adults and suitable for young children. An exquisite production.
Runs until 26 November 2016 | Image: Contributed