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Review: THE SNOWMAN, Peacock Theatre

Review: THE SNOWMAN, Peacock Theatre

The winter perennial returns for its 25th anniversary.

Review: THE SNOWMAN, Peacock Theatre The Snowman and Christmas go together like bad weather and TfL apologies so it's unsurprising that this adaption by the Birmingham Repertory Theatre of Raymond Brigg's seminal 1978 graphic novel is returning to Sadler's Wells' Peacock Theatre. This time around there is something to celebrate, this being the show's twenty-fifth anniversary and forty years since the much-loved Channel 4 animated short first appeared on the screen.

There is no doubt that this is a children's classic: the theatre is packed with rugrats of all ages accompanied by parents who probably saw The Snowman as children themselves. Much of the plot is delivered through interpretative dance to a score by Howard Blake that is kept light and jaunty throughout like a particularly happy Morris dancer on a treadmill. In the first half, the central duo lark around the Boy's house: we watch the Snowman play with the Cat, hold a limbo contest for the tropical contents of the fridge and dress up in the Boy's parents' room.

The second half leaves behind merry England for the more fantastic-in-every-way polar kingdom. As well of half a dozen other snowmen and a couple of penguins, Santa makes an appearance ("yay!" go the kids) as does the villain, a jumping Jack Frost ("boo!") who fights over the Snowman for the attentions of the Ice Princess until a Scottish snowman artfully applies a Glaswegian kiss ("yay!" again). The normally mawkish ending is brief; soon after meeting his watery grave, the Snowman re-appears with the rest of the cast for a celebratory hoedown by way of a goodbye.

In a change from earlier versions of this show, the Snowman and his friend only take to the air at the beginning of the second half as opposed to just before the interval; this gives the ending of the first half a strangely anticlimactic feel. If Birmingham Rep feel like making other alterations, they could look at the projections, stage design and costumes which feel dated. The only outfit worth writing home about is Jack Frost's; unfortunately, his role lacks bite and he comes across as slightly less threatening than a tea cake.

The Snowman is still a solid show with emotional pull. If the much-covered "Walking In The Air" doesn't hit in you deep in the feels as the pair are lifted high above the stage, then there probably weren't any feelings there to begin with. I sensed, though, that the youngsters around me were less engaged than when I first saw this production in 2010 (some of those in that audience may have been sat next to me with their own children for all I knew). Perhaps the writing could do with a refresh more in line with the sharper, wittier content that kids inhale these days from the likes of TV, social media and console games.

For those tired of telling X-Factor runner-ups and Youtube influencers of yesteryear that their career is "behind you!", this is a panto alternative where hearts will be melted way before the snow does. Bring a hanky.

The Snowman continues at Peacock Theatre until 31 December.

Photo credit: Tristram Kenton

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