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The Little Match Girl review at Tabard Theatre, London – ‘a warm adaptation’

Emily Cochrane in The Little Match Girl at Tabard Theatre. Photo: Alistair Hilton Emily Cochrane in The Little Match Girl at Tabard Theatre. Photo: Alistair Hilton
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A revival of the musical that gave us the festive strains of Mistletoe and Wine, which first premiered in 1977, The Little Match Girl is a production stocked with colourful characters that artfully connect with the audience.

The production explores a steady stream of social issues, including child poverty, abandonment, alcoholism, prostitution and greed, to name a few. Keith Strachan is successful in balancing this darkness with some much needed humour, as we are introduced to a parade of characters that interject warmth into Mike Leopold’s darkly lit and Dickensian set. Jack Ayres as Arthur is especially outstanding in accomplishing this; as the only source of companionship for the Little Match Girl, he manages to charm the audience.

The stage sometimes feels too full of people, with the peripheral characters, some only seen once, often overshadowing the main character. Emily Cochrane, dressed in rags as The Little Match Girl, is convincing, but never quite elicits the sympathy a homeless child should.

The songs and scenes become quite repetitive. The touches of hilarity here and there, as well as a couple of scenes that captivate for a few minutes, don’t stop it falling short as an overall production. Strachan’s music is simple and allows the characters to share their stories in an intimate fashion. The surrealism doesn’t quite manage to fit into the story, with the audience left unsure what is real and what isn’t.

Verdict
A warm adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen's story that often falls short of the mark
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