Sometimes a panto won’t cut the ice at Christmas but if your family still wants their fix of festive magic then book tickets for Hans Christian Andersen’s enchanting fantasy, The Snow Queen, which just opened at Northampton’s Royal & Derngate Theatre.
In an equitable deal with the Nuffield Theatre the two venues have swapped their Xmas productions with Merlin travelling to Southampton to this year wave his wand over south coast theatre-goers.
Georgia Pritchett’s glorious adaptation of The Snow Queen is set in the modern day (it even features a group selfie and a snatch of rap) but is packed with guest appearances by familiar fairy story names who show previously unknown sides to their characters.
The story is centred around a great tragedy – which is the last thing you need at Christmas – but from the profound sadness and loss comes hope, courage, salvation and a happy ending (come on, it IS Christmas!).
It starts off slowly – and with as much gloom as it can muster. In the first ten minutes there are tales of death and supernatural kidnap from our protagonists – two orphan friends and a queen, who is devastated at having her baby son stolen by a frightening-looking troll who sounds a lot like Darth Vader.
The red-eyed troll is so scary that I’d probably think twice about taking very young children to the show although, plot spoiler, he is a puppet (you don’t really believe in trolls do you?).
Mona Goodwin’s Gerda is a bit of a wuss since both her parents plunged through an icy lake and drowned. She lacks any sort of courage, doesn’t like adventure or thrills or, indeed, having any sort of a good time.
Meanwhile her best pal, the fearless Kai (Jonny Weldon), who was found abandoned and dumped in a bin, is a daredevil and teases her mercilessly.
Intercut with their story is that of The Snow Queen whose heart has turned to ice since the loss of her son. She will do anything for his return, even if it means snatching another child to take the place of her baby.
The reckless Kai finds himself in deep water (or an icy prison) and Gerda must summon all her bravery and strength to rescue him before it’s too late (gulp)!
With the aid of a rather sassy crow (Tosin Olomowewe as the fine-feathered and chirpy Raven) she begins her journey to the ice palace.
The story seemingly treads the same path as The Wizard of Oz with Gerda accompanied by the crow and a variety of friends she makes along the way.
Red Riding Hood (Mairi Barclay) is a Ninja Scots Goth with a bloodlust and a liking for punk, Sleeping Beauty and her Prince Charming endlessly squabble while Snow White is banged up for larceny and the wee wicked witch (Angela Bain) has trouble with her spells.
Thankfully Pritchett finds her funny bone (she’s written for Miranda, Veep, and The Thick of It) and gives us some wonderfully colourful characters including Richard Pryal’s lovable Reindeer who has his own Twitter account, a line in “yuth” speak, and an ambition to pull Santa’s sleigh.
Caroline Head makes her mark as the wronged and distressed Snow Queen. She’s dressed in dazzling white with flourishes of silver and rages at all and sundry as she hunts for a solution to the terrible spell hanging over her.
Head, the only powerful singer in the cast, gives a show-stopping finale to the first half that leaves us wanting more.
Adults will guess the denouement long before it’s delivered but who cares? Children will fall in love with this engaging and bewitching story (and the Reindeer). It is delightfully told and beautifully acted.
The Snow Queen runs in the Royal auditorium until January 3.
The Snow Queen
Georgia Pritchett’s delightful adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen is an enchanting tale to melt the iciest heart.