An alternative and very poignant Christmas story: Arthur Pita’s The Little Match Girl

Lilan Baylis Theatre, Sadler’s Wells
December 18, 2019

Jessica Wilson

At just over an hour in length, Arthur Pita’s The Little Match Girl is a timeless fable of kindness, friendship and helping others. Hans Christian Andersen’s classic story is reimagined through magical dance-theatre storytelling. As we witness the encounters of the Little Match Girl, both good and bad, it is as enthralling for children as it is adults. There’s a poignant message too: on Christmas Eve, indeed at any time of year, it reminds us to be kind to those less fortunate.

Corey Claire Annand in The Little Match GirlPhoto Phil Conrad
Corey Claire Annand in The Little Match Girl
Photo Phil Conrad

Frank Moon’s musical soundtrack is provided live by atmospheric one-man-band Phil King. So many sound effects were on offer, all simply but effectively created. Two wooden sticks tapped into a microphone is paired with a guitar and violin, to create the authentic sounds and musical accompaniment of Arthur Pita’s imaginary Italian village. A snowy stage sets the scene.

With just a handful of dancers, Pita conjures up a whole host of characters. As the Match Girl herself, Corey Calire Annand is a waif, demure and innocent. The remaining characters are played by Stefanos Dimoulas, Ashley Morgan-Davies and Hanna Nussbaumer. Things turn sour when they refuse to help her on Christmas Eve. Edging towards the story’s dark and macabre side, and looking like they have stepped straight out of a Victorian snow scene, they have little patience with the match girl as she desperately tries to stay out of the cold. Their sometimes over the top characterisations and exuberant natures make for highly entertaining performances.

Everyone shows flavours of fantastic technique (the movement is sometimes pedestrian but elsewhere quite balletic, even with batterie) but what really stands out is the strength of their mime and synchronicity as they journey through the story.

The moon looms large over the goings on. In this tale, it’s the Match Girl (rather than the man) in the moon as Pita feeds many a child’s theory that when you die, that’s where you go to live. The starkness of this bright image against the dark sky of the backdrop is striking. It’s simple yet hugely effective.

Wonderfully inventive and imaginative, Pita’s The Little Match Girl is a mix of comedy, magic, dreams and reality, all interwoven in a way that seems wholly natural. The work is effortless yet emotive, played out for audiences with huge ease. There’s also a lovely sense of enjoyment from the dancers as they tell the tale, one as unpredictable as it is reassuring in its message.

Arthur Pita’s The Little Match Girl is at Sadler’s Wells to December 29. Visit for details and tickets.