The Snow Queen review – rowdy show drowns out Andersen’s wonder | Stage


You can see the temptation. You’ve got a strong team of actor-musicians, expertly led by Jeremy Bradfield with Dr G Hannabiell Sanders, and a rousing story about overcoming adversity. Why shouldn’t you make all the noise you can?

One reason is a tale that’s magnificent in its quiet simplicity. The Snow Queen is the elemental story of childhood friends, Gerda and Kai, torn apart by dark adolescent temptation and reunited by the force of Gerda’s love. Add noise and plot twists and you lose sight of what Hans Christian Andersen’s story is about.

“In the cold, you can hear every whisper,” says Elizabeth Carter’s Snow Queen in Mark Calvert’s rowdy production. If only you could! With so much pulsing percussion and busy banjo, you long for silence. The noisiest song is called Hush Now – and it’s not even ironic.

Similarly reluctant to trust the source material, playwright Laura Lindow introduces a story of small-town repression. Now it’s about the snow-averse citizens of Stifle reining in their emotions, Gilead-style (“Wishing and wanting are against the rules”). It’s a digression that delays the establishment of the central relationship (Lauren Waine and Gregor MacKay, both tremendous in the leads) and when finally Gerda’s quest begins, her encounters with snow bees and a talking rose seem to come out of nowhere.

Yes, it is colourful and, in the case of a War Horse-like reindeer, spectacular, but there is too much distraction. Instead of one girl’s attempt to prevent the corruption of her soulmate, it becomes the fuzzily defined mission of a community to restore balance. Topical, in these divided times, but not what the story is about.

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