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Hans Christian Andersen's The Snow Queen
Published on Friday, 17 August 2012
3

3 stars

Zoo (venue website)
Childrens
9, 11, 13, 15, 17, 19, 21, 23, 25, 27 Aug, 2:15pm-3:15pm
Reviewed by Craig Thomson

 Family-friendly. Suitable for all ages.

When I first heard about Aireborne Theatre's production of The Snow Queen, I thought to myself, “oh, I remember that!  It's the one where... wait, what happens in that one again?”  I'm sure I saw it in the theatre when I was at school, but I needn't have worried about racking my brains for plot points, because this production is clear and comprehensive.

The surprisingly large cast is at work in character (or at least in costume) as we stand in line outside, and enter the auditorium with us.  After some brief larking with the assembled children, Jordan Taylor – the narrator of the piece – asks if we want to hear a story, and introduces us to the tale of The Snow Queen.  If your memory’s as vague as mine, here’s the potted version: magic mirror breaks, shard gets in boy’s eye, he disappears, girl goes off to find him, and they all live happily ever after.

So far, so Hans Christian Andersen – and the story-within-a-story device allows the actors to deliver lengthy passages direct from the source material.  From time to time, I worried about the complexity of the language; it might be better suited to bedtime reading, where questions can be asked and confusions cleared up (“what does 'rife' mean?”), rather than the enthusiastic and somewhat breathless pace of the stage.  This was most pronounced during the first 'chapter', where the evil demons create the magic mirror.  But the potential for misunderstanding receded as we progressed further into the story.

Music is performed live by composers Sam Berrill and May Tumi, and the leads – Katie Dalton and Ben Tavassoli, who were both excellent – sing at points.  Dalton's Gerda also dances her way through the fantasy world (as does a whole flower-patch), and the cast develop characters through both costume and a range of simple puppets.  The puppet pigeons worked well, the dog less so… and the raven was amusingly MacGyver-ed together, but had to carry a lot of dramatic weight for what was, essentially, a slipper held above a coathanger.

If this gives the impression of a busy production, that's not an unreasonable point to take away.  There's a lot going on – at one point, I wrote in my notebook “interpretive dance now” – but it does all hang together well, and there was scarcely a murmur of dissent from the seemingly enthralled youngsters in the audience.  Things are kept moving along at a neat clip, which helps keep the children engaged in the action.  The leads receive great support from the rest of the cast – of whom, Jane Barrow deserves special note, seeming to have the most fun by far despite a broken toe.

So, this is a spirited and charming production, of which director Poppy Rowley and her team can be proud.  It's at times frenetic and occasionally hard to decipher, but you swiftly get caught up in the chase.  Only those with a heart of ice would fail to enjoy it.

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FROM OUR ARCHIVES

These are archived reviews of shows from Edinburgh 2012.  We keep our archives online as a courtesy to performers, and for readers who'd like to research previous years' reviews.

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