A review by Tanya Howard
With all the excitement of Christmas it’s easy to forget that just a week later New Year’s Eve arrives and the pressure to have a memorable evening can be a bit much for some. Some of us just want to hibernate until it’s over and this is exactly what protagonist Brendan wants to do after his fiancée leaves him, he’s on the verge of losing his job and his boss makes him stay late at work.
Brendan decides to shun the parties and demands from friends in favour of a quiet night indoors. When a young girl knocks at his door trying to sell SAD Therapy Lightbulbs he shuns her and compares her to The Little Match Girl from the Hans Christen Anderson story. Asking if he has ever even read the story she leaves him to his misery and night for one which he decides will be the perfect time to actually read the book.
As Brendan reads the story the play switches between his flat and the story of The Little Match Girl being acted out on the stage, with Bronte Barbe taking on the main role as well as being the Lightbulb Seller. Bronte has an incredible voice and her portrayal of The Little Match Box Girl was done beautifully, the feelings resonating with the audience and transporting us to the cold streets she walked. Whilst Bronte was incredible in her role I found she was one of the few saving graces in the show for me.
With a cast of five actors, a pianist and the potential for a great story I was left a little disappointed by the show, I did not see the reason for three of the actors to be narrated one scene and I felt there was an overuse of the additional instruments used in the show especially the violin. The pianist was the unsung hero, setting scenes and I think that he could have solely provided the musical element.
There was a number of issues with the microphones on the night, with Declan Bennett’s repeatedly being turned down a great deal in comparison to the rest of the cast despite being the main singer. Luckily, I was sat front row so it wasn’t too much of a problem for me but I can imagine the back row struggled to hear at points, hopefully this was just an early tech issues and has since been sorted.
Prior to the show I can’t say I knew the story of The Little Match Girl and despite some obscure use of matches at irrelevant points I did think the story was portrayed well but it definitely could have been more poignant. Sadly despite the actors attempting to give the performance their all I feel they were let down by the creative team and writers, this had the potential to be a great play but it fell short in my estimations.