Review of “The Little Match Girl”, a performance by Theatre 199

The little match girl – the flame of hope
Rumyana Mollova
Production team
Directed by Anna-Valeria Gostanyan
Art consultant Katya Petrova
Scenography Natalia Gocheva
Music by Plamen Petkov
Participants: Angel Kalev, Velislava Marinkova, Evgenia Angelova, Lyubomir Zhelev

Andersen’s famous tale about the poor little girl who wanders the cold winter streets on New Year’s Eve in an attempt to sell at least a few boxes of matches has been the subject of many film and stage interpretations over the years. The plot itself quickly reaches and excites the human soul, as there is not only sorrow and poverty in it, but also a manifestation of stoicism. Far more will to live and light radiates the little girl against the background of the soulless cold crowd of passers-by. There must be few people who, for one reason or another, have not touched this story. There must be few who remained indifferent to the harshness, but also the flame of desire, of a lonely child’s evening. Or at least I hope there are few. Hanging above the fairy tale, we can look around and recognize the reality of the cold streets where we have also passed people selling a little warmth. And what’s more – the plot involves another, imaginary world in which the holiday lights up everything around.

Anna-Valeria Gostanyan’s directorial debut turns reality and magic into intertwined threads, enriching the plot with new accents and bright elements. On the winter streets, the Little Match Girl (Evgenia Angelova) is not alone. Sharing a similar fate, she discovers a magician musician (Lyubomir Zhelev) and selling matches becomes an adventure. The big event – the meeting between the two, sets the action in motion under the fabulous sounds of the violin and the cold becomes more bearable. The kindness burning in their hearts brings the belief that they are not alone in the face of the rushing crowd. The care of the musician envelops the little girl in the comfort of friendship. In this interpretation, the fairy tale keeps springing up. The unusual-looking and funny Snezhko with a restless nose and the mischievous puppy (both roles are played by Angel Kalev) join the girl and the musician. They give colorful touches and joyful moments in the hours of the night, merging with infinity. The stage of Theater 199 “Valentin Stoychev” comes alive with the sounds of arriving trains and the pleasant laughter of new friendship. At certain moments of the performance, the appearance of the mystical sorceress (Velislava Marinkova), accompanied by gentle music – the work of Plamen Petkov, briefly brings a breath of air as if from another world. Dressed in white, she comes from the light and is directed towards the stars.

Natalia Gocheva’s scenography brings a mysterious romance to the wall clock, the gramophone records, the remarkable details of the costumes of the musician, the little girl or the magical lady. The world of the stage comes to life through the skillful movements of the actors in the space with every gesture of the puppets. The partnership between Evgenia Angelova, Lyubomir Zhelev and Angel Kalev is both fascinating to watch and inspiring because of the balanced play between the actor and the puppet. The actors interact dynamically with the puppets and animate the characters and their actions on a grand scale.
This interpretation of “The Little Match Girl” amazes children with imagination and warms the soul of their parents with the light of the flame around the holiday tree. With the beautiful ending, where the flight to the stars does not bring sorrow, but hope, that there is a celebration.

Translation is funded by National Culture Fund.