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The Snow Queen

  • Theatre, Children's
  • Polka Theatre, Wimbledon
  • 3 out of 5 stars
The Snow Queen, Polka Theatre, 2023
Photo: Ali Wright

Time Out says

3 out of 5 stars

Funny if soft-hearted take on the classic Hans Christian Andersen fairytale

Jude Christian is an achingly cool leftfield playwright and director… and apparently a massive Christmas fan, having been a mainstay of the Lyric Hammersmith panto creative team for years.

Not 2023, however, as she finds a new seasonal outlet in the form of the Polka Theatre’s Christmas show, its first under new artistic director Helen Matravers.

Directed by Emma Baggott, ‘The Snow Queen’ is, of course, a fresh take on Hans Christian Andersen’s beloved story – Christian does Christian – in a zippy update for ages six-to-12 that roughly hews to the shape of the original while adding distinctly cheerier vibes. 

Broken up into short chapters by Joe Boylan and Paula James’s narrating Ancient Trees, it tells the story of best friends Gerda (Rebecca Wilson) and Kai (Finlay McGuigan), who dream of becoming adults by saving the town from the clutches of the enigmatic Snow Queen (Phoebe Naughton). But their plans are knocked off course when a shard of evil troll mirror gets into Kai’s eye and he has a total emo meltdown before running away with the Queen.

It’s an enjoyable show that doesn’t quite feel like it knows what it wants to be. It’s most confident when it’s being silly: the larky prologue about the Troll King and his mirror and the Python-esque sequence with singing flowers are both gems. But while it’s understandable that Christian hasn’t been 100 percent faithful to the original Victorian story – it’s very meandering, and quite religious – her version ends up defanged by a detour into sentimentality. My eight-year-old complained that not enough happened in it, and I could see his point – it sets itself up as a tale of adventure but ends up a sort of self-help parable with jokes.

It might have worked a little better as a full-on panto, but whatever: it’s an enjoyably loopy (if tonally uneven) Christmas romp with something for ‘Frozen’ fans, Narnia heads and straight-up fairytale lovers.

Andrzej Lukowski
Written by
Andrzej Lukowski


Polka Theatre
240 The Broadway
SW19 1SB
View Website
Tube: South Wimbledon
£11-£27. Runs 1hr 35min

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