Declan Bennett is the star attraction for this new musical, a clever riff on Hans Christian Andersen’s story The Little Match Girl. Joined by Bronté Barbé, both performers sound great and recap the original tale, which Bennett’s character reads and Barbé acts out, alongside an update that involves a sales girl for lightbulbs aimed at sufferers of Season Affective Disorder. The show is cute, charming, and uses its fairy tale antecedents wisely.
The piece comes from musical theatre team Brendan Milburn and Valerie Vigoda with expert help on the book and lyrics from Rachel Sheinkin. The structure is tight and the words very good: clear and direct with smart plays on rhythm. When it comes to the modern melancholy, as the countdown for New Year approaches, the team does well. Attempts at humour don’t quite land, which is a shame given the wit and intelligence behind the show. The music is proficient and enjoyable if, I fear, not quite memorable enough.
At just over an hour, Striking 12 feels truncated. Bennett’s mopish character could easily be given more backstory. And the modern-day girlhe meets urgently needs one. Transforming Andersen into a romance needs more work. But the production skilfully glosses over shortcomings. Kate Robson-Stuart and Leon Scott have a good go at a variety of roles alongside sitting at the drums and taking up the violin. Danielle Kassaraté makes an amiable, if underused, narrator. Oliver Kaderbhai, who is choreographer (with Marah Stafford) as well as director, has plenty of ideas – like the piece itself -and the whole show faces the perils of striking a match on stage bravely. There are plenty of warm glowing moments that make Striking 12 sparky, if not with quite enough material to get a goodfire going.
Until 23 December 2018
Photo by Tom Grace