This year’s Storyhouse Original Christmas show is a retelling of the classic fairy tale, with a timely opening coinciding with a blast of wintery weather. Theatre goers will be impressed by the staging of the play, with the band perched above the icy mountains and providing everything from a mournful violin to upbeat pop, the set also offering multiple immersive projection effects.
The Queen arrives with her sinister band of disco influenced Ice trolls and then weaves her ghostly presence throughout the first half of the show. Written by Charles Way and set in a bleak town somewhere in the frozen North, we are introduced to friends Gerda and Kai and their respective parents and Kai soon falls under the influence of the Queen, vanishing into her magical land. The two young leads, Rosemarie Akwafo as Gerda and Taona Matope as Cei are great, excelling at depicting both the everyday growing pains and family woes and the subsequent flight into a world of magic.
The Snow Queen (Lucy Tuck) and her disco Ice trolls
With Cei under the Queen’s spell, Gerda sets out to rescue him, travelling through a portal in search of her lost friend. The simple structure gives the show a fast pace as Gerda moves through the seasons slowly gaining in confidence as she journeys to defeat the evil Queen. This, the small cast play a different role in each of the seasons, from comedy spring flowers to a dance obsessed summer beach crew and a band of autumn robbers. Familiar from previous Storyhouse productions Tom Richardson is funny as a sleepy snowdrop and a tapdancing Cockney Reindeer, and Kate Malyon is superb as a spoilt beach princess in the summer sequence. A punch the air dance off sequence featuring a little audience participation gives Gerda the confidence for the final confrontation in the Queen’s tomb of assembled victims.
Typical of the venue’s reputation, The Snow Queen has a touch of class that , alongside the moments of chill and darkness, offers hope, laughter and a heart warming conclusion. Some might argue for a “traditional ” panto but with many venues in the borough and beyond offering this, its hard to fault an original and classy production like this one.
FIVE STARS *****
The Snow Queen runs until the 15th January
Photo credits: Mark McNulty