The best pantomimes are all about getting in touch with your inner child, and in many ways, this succeeds, thanks to the adaptation by Patrick Dineen with dramaturg Mike Kenny. However, that’s mostly due to the setting, music (Dineen again) and sound (Mary Cummings), atmospheric lighting (Phil Saunders), gorgeous costumes and the acting.
Unfortunately, it has gone and lost the plot somewhat, complete (or not…) with a sanitised ending which peters out. And we all know this story, don’t we, boys and girls? Oh yes we do: boy and girl are friends, boy vanishes, girl searches everywhere and eventually rescues him. And there’s the wicked Snow Queen, who captivates and captures Kai after he takes to heart a piece of glass. And there’s the wizard whose broken mirror causes all the trouble, and there’s a polar bear (a spritely Lucy Fiori - all in grey). No, I don’t remember those bits either, some of which felt tacked on for comic effect, and being so bitty, never mind the Queen, confusion reigned.
However, Graeme Skingle’s set is cunningly designed with a stairway leading to a translucent screened corridor to convey a sense of space and dual location/time, complementing the main action, particularly when the Snow Queen slinks on. Props are simple but effective; you can almost see the snow and feel the cold. Plus full credit for the use of trailing drapery (which must be a health and safety nightmare), likewise, Laura Hollowell’s splendid costumes. All look most authentic with rich colours and fabrics, although hard to picture a bright green Primark style satin dressing gown going to a ball.
Singing (though occasionally drowned out by the music) and dancing was folksy come traditional, while acting was occasionally on the valiant side; there’s more to being a grandmother than a pair of spectacles. But Lauren Silver was excellent as Gerda, who must be one of the original feisty heroines, well matched by Jamie Stuart as Kai. As for their evil counterparts, Rosie McLaughlin with her elegant almost balletic gestures made an exquisitely wicked Queen (and is as sinister in her crow disguise), while Filippo Fiori is so good as a wizard you suspect it must be his day job.
The Snow Queen has been lovingly produced; plus, a blessing at this time of year, it is certainly original. And it is Christmas after all.