Thumbelina explored for the Festival of Chichester

Fantastical encounters lead Thumbelina to faraway lands where she finds the meaning of freedom and true love.

Friday, 29th June 2018, 7:33 am
Updated Monday, 16th July 2018, 4:52 pm

Hans Christian Andersen’s magical tale will be brought to life in a one-woman show by Egyptian-German singer-composer Merit Ariane for this year’s Festival of Chichester.

She will be telling the tale with words – and through song from Europe to the Middle East, referencing Sephardic folklore, Gershwin, Darwish and Montsalvatge.

Part of the Amici Concerts series during the festival, Thumbelina: A Musical Fairytale will be in St Pancras Church, Eastgate Square, Chichester on Thursday, July 12 from 9.30pm-10.15pm.

“As a singer, often you need instrumentalists with you, but I just wanted to create something that I could do on my own, and that was the first idea. But then I thought that I wanted to do something that was quite theatrical, the idea of story-telling and music, not a concert necessarily, but something that included story and movement and music all together in a magical experience.

“I am very interested in journeys as someone who has journeyed a lot and coming from many different cultures. I came across Thumbelina. I have always loved Hans Christian Andersen’s stories. I have always loved The Little Mermaid, but that’s a very complex and dark story. Thumbelina is a beautiful little tale about this girl who goes on an incredible adventure, and I decided I wanted to set it to music.

“It is quite a bizarre story. There is a woman who lives on her own and is childless. She really wants to have a child and goes to the witch to ask her for a child. The witch gives her a seed which she plants, and the flower grows, and inside the flower is Thumbelina, a girl who is the size of your thumb.

“And then one day a big toad hops through the window and takes Thumbelina away. And then she goes on all these journeys. Thumbelina manages to get away and a fish helps her. She ends up in a meadow and gets taken in by a field mouse. But the field mouse wants to marry Thumbelina off to the mole…

“I have chosen various parts of the story, and I have found songs suitable for each part of the story. I have created a backing track. I am reading the story, and on the backing track there is some music and some of my previous recordings.

“The theme is journeys, and I have used recordings I did in Lebanon. I found these recordings of old monasteries and bells. It is like a mini-operetta with the story told in between. It is staged, but not hugely staged.

“It is quite minimally staged, but in the end, it is a story about a woman that goes through life and takes control and finds her own life.”