The Little Match Girl review in Variety
In honor of the bicentennial of Hans Christian Andersen's birth, the Tiger Lillies are lighting up "The Little Match Girl" with their special blend of world music, jazz, eerie falsetto and subtle raven-black sardonic wit.
By Larry Lash
In honor of the bicentennial of Hans Christian Andersen's birth, the
Tiger Lillies are lighting up "The Little Match Girl" with their
special blend of world music, jazz, eerie falsetto and subtle
raven-black sardonic wit. While never quite as racy, raucous or
blasphemous as some of the trio's previous stage works ("Shockheaded
Peter" being the most widely seen), the overall tone is of a
mesmerizing, mystical chimera -- equal parts Kurt Weill (and Bertolt
Brecht), Astor Piazzolla, Angelo Badalamenti, Tom Waits, Sgt. Pepper
and flea circus.
Martyn Jacques, the unique, haunting voice of the Lillies, has penned a
dozen songs that form a stream-of-consciousness take on the grim tale
of a little girl who burns up her wares in a failed effort to keep from
freezing to death. Songs progress from "Red and Blue With Cold" and
"Falling Star" to "Ascent to Heaven" and "Dead Body." Even sweetly
poetic lines like "Your long golden hair is worth more than diamonds"
are tinged with sadness, accompanied by a rusty squeezebox and string
Tiny Laetitia Angot is the Match Girl, moving like a ballerina whose
every barefoot step is hindered by frost; when liberated by death, she
strips off her clothes and climbs into the familiar comfort of an empty
refrigerator. Bob Goody is the crusty old man, some distant relative of
Fagin, Estragon or God, who literally pulls the strings to open -- and
close -- the curtains on the latest debauchment in the Match Girl's
Dan Jemmett places the intensely focused stylized action in a series of
five identical proscenium arches, telescoping upstage in forced
perspective. With the Lillies dressed in musty red top hats, the
overall feel is of a surreal music hall panto, complete with
cross-dressing, a glass of Scotch dumped on the crotch and a banana
peel tossed on the ground. As Jacques sings of being "alone with the
man on the moon," Goody's sagging white ass is glimpsed through the
smallest of the proscenia.
The venue is appropriately weird: a former 19th-century stock exchange
building on the far side of the Danube Canal, converted into an ad hoc
performance space with 12 rows of bleachers set in a vast
marble-columned atrium. Kudos to Claus Buehler's sound design, which
keeps the music intimate, warm and natural, with no echo from the cold,
A co-production of the Hans Christian Andersen Foundation and four
European theater companies, the show is in negotiation for Stateside
Sets, Dick Bird; costumes, Sylvie
Martin-Hyszka; lighting, Arnaud Jung; musical arrangements, Christian
Kolonovits; sound, Claus Buehler. Opened, reviewed Feb. 7, 2006.
Running time: 55 MIN.