The Little Match Girl Passion
Movements surplus to requirements in David Lang's fragmented, overlapping score
Amid Victorian clutter – ram’s skull, case of butterflies, mangy toy dog on wheels – four comfortable-looking individuals in deconstructed versions of period dress sing the story of a barefoot lass selling matches on a freezing night. Above them, the flock wallpaper gives way to a glass-fronted upper stage in which the match girl, caught in a trap of poverty and inevitablity, dances the same simple movements over and over again.
David Lang’s The Little Match Girl Passion – Hans Christian Andersen’s narrative in the format of Bach’s Saint Matthew Passion – requires an extraordinary staging. The piece, which won the Pulitzer Prize in 2008, is a perfect candidate for Theatre Cryptic’s ‘music you can watch’’ treatment. Yet while Lang’s fragmented, overlapping score is safe in the hands of Nicola Corbishley, Clare Wilkinson, Christopher Watson and Jimmy Holliday, Emma Snellgrove’s movement is surplus to requirements. Lang wrote in the third person, without including the match girl’s voice. A grown woman in a raggedy dress going through her motions is a layer too much.
Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, Tue 22 & Wed 23 Nov. Seen at Tron Theatre, Glasgow, Fri 11 Nov