Thumbelina explored for the Festival of Chichester


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

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.”