Review: The Little Matchgirl and other Happier Tales - Minerva Theatre, Chichester

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As the show ends, Ole Shuteye invites the audience to leave a contribution for local homeless charity Stonepillow.

How could anyone entranced by this Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale feast do otherwise than throw in the entire contents of their purse?

Andersen’s stories are not mere products of a vivid imagination designed to entertain children.

Far from it. They shock. They provoke. They challenge. They moralize. And they empathize with their characters in ways that other more serious writers can only aspire.

The Little Matchgirl freezes on the streets. Her last remaining comfort is the warm glow from striking her final box of matches.

In that glow, she sees other worlds and daring adventures - from Thumbelina to the Emperor’s new suit of clothes.

A children’s production? Well there is no doubt that the younger members of the audience adored it - not least when the Emperor removed his cloak to show himself almost naked - with his blushes saved by a one-suit.

But this is a sparkling, magical show that will entrance the child within every theatre-goer no matter their age counted in years.

No surprise that this is a Shakespeare’s Globe and Bristol Old Vic co-production. From its music and theatrical artistry to its costume and puppetry it simply oozes quality.

The matchgirl is a puppet so vividly given life by Edie Edmundson you are moved beyond description by her innocent pain.

But leave no-one out the credits. From Niall Ashdown’s brilliantly waspish good humour to the amazing Guy Hughes, Kezrena James, Katy Owen and Karl Queensborough.

This is a treat of the highest order.