Brighton Year-Round 2023
Generously sprinkled with stardust, Arthur Pita and company thaw the ice at the heart of Hans Christian Anderson’s classic dark tale. Rush to get tickets for the weekend shows!
Imagine a pop-up book sprung into life, its pages luminous with colour, texture and sound. Ballo Arthur Pita’s show may be ten years old, but on Brighton Dome’s new Corn Exchange stage it feels as fresh as newly falling snow.
Ed Yetton’s delicate lighting pin-points the action and guides the eye across a set elegantly designed to evoke place, time and weather. It’s a palette of greys and silvers, on which our heroine gallantly tries to sell her matches, until the posh, nasty Donnarumma family, all bright colours and big shapes, deny her shelter, then a couple of bully-boy rivals (Italian mafia spring to mind) do her in.
The story is largely told through gesture and the music of multiple instruments, composed by Frank Moon and played on stage by Phil King, with Italian prattle it’s not necessary to understand. They marry together with ease, pumping up and shooshing down to feed the emotional drive of the narrative, bolstered by foley sound effects.
Pita’s choreography playfully blends classical ballet with folk dance; each character instantly definable by movement and gesture as well as joyful, inventive costumes by Yann Seabra who also designed the set.
Corey Claire Annand in the lead role is an engaging presence throughout, featherlight on dainty arched feet, with great group work from Angelo Smimmo, Karl Fagerlund Brekke and Faith Prendergast (particularly good at being nasty) doubling as everyone else; hats off to the back stage team for the costume changes alone.
There is still a tragedy at the heart of the story -it wouldn’t be a Christmas classic without some misery to overcome – yet this version is in all senses light on its feet and with a bravura leap of imagination leaves its young audience in a thoughtful rather than traumatised place. For where else could the poor, dead girl go at the winter solstice than to the moon, with the spirit of her grandmother, an astronaut from 1969 and a malfunctioning, spider-cum-lunar spacecraft. From up there she can see earth; a child is selling lighters. The best the match girl can do is the light the night sky with stars and hope for a better future.