Is this Bristol's best show of 2017? Vivienne Kennedy thinks it might just be...

I do believe they’ve done it again.

Right at the end of the theatrical year, Bristol Old Vic (co-producing with Shakespeare’s Globe) has, with The Little Matchgirl and Other Happier Tales, a very strong claim to the title of Bristol’s Best Show 2017. It is, quite simply, beautiful.

The Little Matchgirl is a show of many layers and it ticks all my boxes. There’s great music, composed by Stephen Warbeck and performed on stage by a talented trio of musicians; gorgeous costumes and clever sets (the work of designed Vicki Mortimer); strong storylines (Hans Christian Andersen, adapted by Joel Horwood and Emma Rice); fabulous puppetry; hilarious comedy; and heart-wrenching pathos. 

It made me cry both with laughter and at the injustice of the world. And it serves as a reminder, particularly apt as Christmas approaches, that perhaps many of us need to check our privilege from time to time.

The Little Matchgirl, played/operated by Edie Edmundson, is cold, alone, and vulnerable. To attempt to keep warm she begins to strike her last few matches and with each flame conjures up a new story, tales we’re all familiar with, even if we’ve not heard them since childhood.

Led by Ole Shuteye (Niall Ashdown), an Edwardian vaudeville troupe performs Thumbelina, The Emperor’s New Clothes, and The Princess and the Pea. Each story given a slight twist by Emma Rice and her team. And each giving the audience something to think about and ponder over.

I loved this show (can you tell?) and would wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone wondering what to see this Christmas. It’s on until 14 January but I suggest booking soon as it’s likely to be the hottest ticket in town once the reviews are in! 

Little Matchgirl Bristol Old Vic

The Little Matchgirl and Other Happier Tales is aimed at anyone over the age of eight. If you are taking younger children to the theatre this Christmas you might like to consider Bristol Old Vic’s second seasonal treat, The Snow Globe, which is playing until 7 January in The Lantern at Colston Hall.

This show is a Kid Carpet classic, blending original music, comedy, and theatrical chaos. It’s aimed at children aged three to seven and their families and has plenty to keep all generations amused.


The Little Matchgirl and Other Happier Tales at Bristol Old Vic
The Little Matchgirl and Other Happier Tales at Bristol Old Vic

Emma Rice's "exquisite" (Daily Telegraph) production comes to Bristol this Christmas following its critically acclaimed premiere at Shakespeare's Globe.

Bristol Old Vic Theatre
Bristol Old Vic Theatre

Built in 1766, Bristol Old Vic is the oldest continuously working theatre in the English speaking world, and remains a place of joy, discovery and adventure to this day.