‘Risscht! – The Little Match Girl’ reviewed by Gordon the Optom

by November 3, 2016

‘Risscht! – The Little Match Girl’ is a richly considered adaptation – for adults – of the 1845 short story, by the Danish children’s writer, Hans Christian Andersen. This Australian premiere by ‘The Open Lid Ensemble’ is tackled with their fresh, warmly sensitive and yet primeval approach to physical theatre. This is not simply a relating of the basic story, but is in fact a well-devised and clever interpretation.

At the beginning of this year, ‘The Open Lid Ensemble’ presented ‘Halina’, one of the most admired plays of the Perth Fringe World programme.

Performed as part of the 2016 Fremantle Festival, this charming but dark play can be seen in the Red Room at Creatures Next Door nightly at 7.00 until 4th November.

The Red Room has the seating ‘in the round’ under a colourful, Big Top canopy. To the side is a stage, showing a grey city skyline and the detritus of urban squalor.

 

        The dimly lit room is filled with a low echoing bass voice (Michael Biagioni), sounding a little like the haunting of a whale crying in the ocean. The live melancholic music, in a lower key, builds up, completing the feeling of a vast, lonely and open space. A beautifully melodic, ethereal voice (Isaura Malika) sensitively completes the mood.

       A raggedly dressed, pale-faced girl (Courtney Turner) lies on the pavement. As she sleeps, the black spirits of the night flit around. As morning dawns, she wakes, grabs her Salvo’s free cup of soup, before the pandemonium of the commuters (Kat Shaw, Amanda Watson, Sinead O’Hara, Hannah Evelyn) hit the streets.

       These wealthy automatons move around with no consideration for anyone except themselves. In a desperate attempt to make some money for food, the poor girl tries to sell them matches, ever hoping for a morsel of their abundance – without success.

       That night, she has graphic dreams of a large, crackling warm fire, only to find that her surroundings are still cold and miserable. Then, she meets a set of fun loving girls who are out for the night. She joins them. At last, she has found friends that she enjoys being with, and can trust.

     Until Risscht (an ancient Danish – or German – word for ‘cracks’), in this flash, has the match girl’s life at last turned around?

 

The breakthrough standard of the contemporary dancing is truly amazing. When blended with artistic movement, the whole, energy packed, choreographic effect is deeply moving. I have never seen a dance or mime routine that could depict such depth of emotion in a performance. The audience developed a genuine empathy with the poor girl that left them semi-traumatised.

The lighting (Scott Corbett) and soundscape was most effective. Again, I would like to mention the unique skills of the two musicians who took us through the poor girl’s life; with the misery depicted by a rasping violin, to the happier moments with a muted trumpet. The duo played several instruments each, all of which perfectly complemented the performance.

Terrific teamwork, and truly moving piece of dance and acting. Wonderful.