The Little Match Girl tale revealed…

Hans Christian Andersen’s most famous tales include The Little Mermaid and The Ugly Duckling, but it is his Little Match Girl story that captivated cabaret star, Meow Meow.  ‘He captures abuse, exile and abandonment as familiar conditions – and food, warmth, love, beauty and spirituality as fundamental human needs, not just wishful hallucinations.’

Illustration by Arthur Rackham

Hans Christian Andersen’s heart-wrenching story of the poor match-seller who freezes to death one New Year’s Eve was first published in 1845. The image of the bare-footed, blonde-haired child, outside on this ‘most terribly cold’ night, trying to warm herself with the matches she is supposed to be selling, resonated with all who read it in those dark, Dickensian days of child labour, cruelty and poverty. Surrounded by the houses of rich merchants, with the snow coming down, the little match girl takes shelter in a nook. She strikes her matches against a brick wall and through the bright flare sees images of a better life: a festive table laid with a roast goose; a magnificent Christmas tree with thousands of lights; a shooting star; and the loving face of her grandmother. But in a chilling finale, by dawn she is dead, frozen stiff still clutching her bundles of matches.

There is a meaningful message to be found beneath Meow Meow’s bizarre cabaret of wildness, wit and glamour. Not only is it a re-telling of Andersen’s story, says the performer, but it is ‘a reminder of the thousands of little match girls and boys sleeping rough every night in Australia’. Between musical vignettes and high-kicking theatrics, Meow Meow shares moments of frailty and incisive social commentary. She doesn’t offer an answer to the problem of homelessness; rather she uses a simple fairy tale to challenge the crowd in a rollicking, rousing performance.

 

Catch Meow Meow’s Little Match Girl at Southbank Centre’s Queen Elizabeth Hall from 13 – 30 December. Get tickets and watch trailer here. 

 

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