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A Shakespeare's Globe and Bristol Old Vic co-production

The Little Matchgirl and Other Happier Tales

From the story by Hans Christian Andersen and Other Storytellers
Writer and co-adaptor Joel Horwood
Director and co-adaptor Emma Rice

Minerva TheatreTickets
Family Friendly
Price: from £20

Overview

An out-and-out triumph. Endlessly inventive, gloriously silly, poignant, topical, edifying

WhatsOnStage
 

Theatre to snuggle down into on a frosty night

Guardian

Emma Rice’s ‘exquisite’ (Daily Telegraph) production comes to Chichester following its critically-acclaimed premiere at Shakespeare’s Globe.

As our destitute heroine struggles to survive, she strikes her matches to keep warm. Each match will conjure a new story, a new vision, and we will hold her hand as we tumble down the rabbit hole together. Inspired by the beautiful and devastatingly sad Hans Christian Andersen tale, The Little Matchgirl, and combining Andersen’s other tales, The Princess and the Pea, The Emperor’s New Clothes and Thumbelina, The Little Matchgirl and Other Happier Tales reveals a spellbinding world of magic and mystery.

Steeped in the metaphor and meaning that runs through the veins of Andersen’s enduring stories, this will be a night to delight, transport and surprise. For adults and brave children alike, expect music, puppetry, dark magic... and perhaps some modern truths that we would all rather remain hidden.

Globe B Old Vic.

Prologue members tickets on sale
Saturday 16 September

Cast & Creatives

Creative team

Joel Horwood

Writer and co-adaptor

Emma Rice

Director and co-adaptor

Gallery

Access performances

Linked Events

Interview with Emma Rice about The Little Matchgirl and Other Happier Tales

Director and co-adaptor Emma Rice talks to Heather Neill about The Little Matchgirl and Other Happier Tales.

What made you choose “The Little Matchgirl” a year ago?
It was originally for the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, the Globe’s candle-lit theatre, and I thought “candles, matches, magic”. Now of course we are going to all kinds of theatres where even striking a match can cause anxiety! The Playhouse is exquisite and unique, but in a normal theatre we have the advantage that the bleak, contemporary homeless world is much stronger because we can contrast with the magic more easily. Children love the show because it’s frightening and gripping and strange and magical, but adults can appreciate the deeper themes bubbling through. I’m careful not to call this a children’s show, but it’s a show you’d want to bring children to. 

Your collaborator is writer Joel Horwood. How do you work together?
There’s no formula. We batted ideas around with the designer (Vicki Mortimer), the composer (Stephen Warbeck), the sound designer (Simon Baker) and lighting designer (Malcolm Rippeth). I was clear I wanted to move between magical fairytale and the modern world of the homeless and we all had ideas about basic human needs and how we might structure the whole narrative. The world was very preoccupied by the refugee crisis this time last year – and things haven’t really changed, although it’s less in the news. It’s still relevant for everyone to think about how we treat others, people who are not like ourselves. We started thinking about what people with nothing need: shelter, clothing, food.

 “The Little Matchgirl” is a very sad story, but you also include “other happier tales”, “Thumbelina”, “The Emperor’s New Clothes” and “The Princess and the Pea”. Why did you choose these?
Thumbelina is a tiny person going on an epic journey, which she survives. That seemed perfect for our little heroine to hear, the story of someone so vulnerable who survives all the traps and dangers and finds hope. In the middle is “The Emperor’s New Clothes”, one of the funniest stories ever written, which is also about power and who we trust. The Emperor’s nude suit is one of my favourite things ever! “The Princess and the Pea” was my favourite as a child. I loved the notion of lots of mattresses. Bed is a really big part of a child’s life: it’s a safe space, but it’s also where you have nightmares, where you have monsters under the bed. The princess  - and princesses in folktale are not royal, they represent all of us - is wild, nobody knows where she’s from. She’s like an elemental goddess and the prince’s reaction is not to trust her. It made me think of the people who come to our country, who have been through so much and we expect them to be good citizens. This section is completely sung through, a folk opera.

Another recurring theme in the news is women’s vulnerability to predatory men. That’s here too, isn’t it?
Indeed. When Thumbelina gets put into servitude and marriage by the Mole, children can find it scary, but adults know very well what we are talking about. Fairytales are at their most powerful when children understand the lessons they are teaching us on an instinctive level and adults on an intellectual level.

Where did Ole Shuteye come from?
Joel Horwood found him in another, obscure Andersen story. Ole Shuteye would go into houses in his stockinged feet so as not to wake the children and he’d flick sweet milk on their eyes. If they’d been good he’d give them amazing dreams, if not they’d have no dreams at all. He’s developed into our character, a clown figure, the storyteller who links the tales. All the stories are held in a faded Edwardian theatrical world. There’s a melancholy about that, but it’s funny too and anything can happen.

 Why is the Little Matchgirl played by a puppet?
Puppetry is an ancient, detailed craft and Edie Edmondson, who operates the Little Matchgirl is brilliant. I think the puppet gives you an intimacy, allows you to project on to it. It’s like a close-up in a film – very immediate, very emotional. Lindy Wright, who made her, is a mistress of the art, able to make a face that almost changes under your eye. Acting is, for me, a very grown-up thing to do; I always worry about real children on stage.

What do rhyming couplets add?
Rhyming couplets remind us of being a child and keep a motor through the narrative. And dance and music fit in very well. 

The idea of the soldier is significant, isn’t it?
The soldier is an important theme in all folklore and my reading of that is that soldiers can be different things: they can be frightening because they are capable of killing, but they can also save you. Two soldiers bookend the piece: the one at the beginning who may be predatory – we are not sure – and at the end the one wearing a UN beret. We are saying that we are capable of being all things as human beings: it’s a matter of the choice you make.

Kids Eat Free in The Brasserie

CHILDREN EAT FREE IN THE BRASSERIE  

Children under 12 can dine for free* with a full paying adult in The Brasserie. Visit our Food & Drink page to see the menus and to book your table. Available during performances of The Jungle Book, The Little Matchgirl, Comedy Club 4 Kids, Penguin and Tales from the Shed.

*Guests will be able to order one FREE two course children’s meal with every full paying adult two course meal at £20.95.

Available on all Family Shows from 25 January – 16 February in the Brasserie only. In this instance, children refer to those under the age of 12 years old. Please note this does not include drinks.

Tickets
Age Guidance 
Age 9+