‘The Snow Queen’ review

Theatre, Children's
Recommended
4 out of 5 stars
The Snow Queen, Park Theatre
Photograph: Manuel Harlan Paula James, Esmonde Cole and Matthew Cavendish

Time Out says

4 out of 5 stars

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This witty-but-faithful take on the Hans Christian Andersen fairy story is a smart family alternative to panto frippery

The Park Theatre is on a bit of a roll with its Christmas shows. Last year’s high-flying ‘Peter Pan’ was a whole lot of fun and this year’s ‘The Snow Queen’ is a weird and wonderful take on the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale that inspired Disney’s ‘Frozen’. 

Charles Way’s adaptation, directed by Abigail Anderson, mainly goes back to original story, with one or two modern additions. Gerda (Ayesha Casely-Hayford) and Cai (Esmonde Cole) grow up in houses so close together they can jump across the roofs to visit each other. Then one day Cai gets a shard of glass in his eye, starts behaving like a big old meanie to his pal and, in the middle of a sledge race, is swept away to the Snow Queen’s frosty palace.

Gerda goes on an epic quest to find the friend everyone says is dead beneath the frozen river ice. Although her quest takes her to the Flower Witch’s garden, the robbers’ den and so on (with each place having its own test to pass), the whole set-up can also be read metaphorically. When the panic-attack-suffering Gerda is called on to be bold, she accepts a mission to rediscover the ‘old Cai’, the version of her friend she knows existed before the shard of glass turned him depressed and moody.

You could certainly pay to see a sleeker, bigger-budget Christmas show on in London this year. But this one has genuine heart. The performers, Casely-Hayford in particular, are playful and attentive to the children watching, without doing the whole OTT kids’ entertainer shtick. The geometric wood and broken mirror set design partly sort of resembles an adventure playground and the show works with a similar ethos, namely that it’s okay to expose kids to a bit of danger (there’s no ambiguity over Cai being ‘dead’, not ‘gone to heaven’ or ‘passed away’). Oh, and there’s also a nice reindeer and Gerda has great boots: everything you want at Christmastime. 

By: Rosemary Waugh

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