BWW Review: THE SNOW QUEEN, Rose Theatre
Kingston's Rose Theatre always goes all-out for their Christmas production. After last year's huge success with Hansel And Gretel, writer and director Ciaran McConville turns his hand to another Hans Christian Andersen tale with The Snow Queen.
Gerda lives in a quiet orphanage, feeling there is a different future lying in wait for her. She discovers that she is a Child of Magic, hidden from the evil Snow Queen, from whom she will be able to take the crown when she comes of age. She is also in love with her kindly neighbour Kai. When Kai is captured by the Snow Queen, Gerda embarks on a wild adventure to save him, meeting pirates, elves, a talking reindeer and evil trolls along the way.
Parisa Hahmir grows in stature as Gerda throughout the show. She is a strong and confident heroine, with a sweet singing voice. Jack Wolfe is charismatic as neighbour Kai; his introduction as a salesman for his father's terrible inventions is both funny and very natural.
In Andersen's story, the villains do not get their comeuppance, but here Helena Blackman's chilling Snow Queen is comprehensively defeated. Blackman is suitably unsettling in her calm and hard-hearted character, with strong vocals in her singing.
What always sets the Rose's Christmas production apart is the use of the copious talent of the Rose Youth Theatre. Press night saw the Blue Cast in action, with excellent performances from Millie Brownhill as the valiant Edda, Jacob Towey as the cheeky Sampo and Emily Porter as the curious Joy.
Particular mention must go to Oliver Hymans' puppet design and Yvonne Stone's puppet direction. Reindeer Bancu is a magical addition to the show, with brilliantly realistic movement and wonderful personality. Marnie Camping-Harris and Tom Greig operate his body with aplomb and Francis Redfern is outstanding as Bancu's head and voice; the friendly Welsh lilt and easy joking manner really brings the gentle reindeer to life.
Anderson's original story was written as a 'tale in seven stories'. McConville has streamlined this somewhat, but there is still too much going on, particularly in the first half. There are separate stories being told for several different characters. It is sometimes hard to keep track and there are often too many people on stage, which is distracting. Despite all this content, the pace also feels a little slow. The second half is much more cohesive, with enough excitement and adventure to flow very well.
On press night there were some sound issues, meaning it was hard to hear some actors and general sound levels were too low. However, the big strength of the production is that it looks magnificent. David Fairley's set design has a distinctly Scandi feel, with lots of bare wood; dual staircases and several balconies make the most of the height of the Rose. Charlie Morgan Jones' spectacular lighting is atmospheric and dramatic, with beautiful use of smoke and lights to recreate the Northern Lights, as well as a magical feel from Gerda and the Snow Queen's spells.
There is also some very clever design; huge sheets are gathered and pulled across the stage to illustrate giant icicles and ice sheets in the Snow Queen's palace. White, elasticated fabric is used to great effect, pulled quickly over actors' heads and bodies to starkly show when they have been frozen. A pirate ship is deftly recreated with sheets, flags and judicious use of ropes.
Although not as strong as last year's show, there are some wonderful aspects to this production. There are some very strong performances and the appearance of Bancu alone is worth the ticket.
Photo Credit: Rose Theatre