Chris Monk’s economic and literal stage adaptation of The Snow Queen inventively tackles the challenges of presenting an epic journey across a Scandinavian landscape.
Hans Christian Andersen originally wrote The Snow Queen in prose as a magical visual banquet to take place inside our imagination, transporting us through a dramatic and varied terrain. In this theatre in the round production the same effect is created through Sue Condie’s versatile and effective design with a chorus of performers to embody animals, plants and elements and features of the different locations. The river and garden are particularly magical and gently spectacular examples of this at its best. However, the deadly battle with the Snow Queen and her army at the story’s conclusion is less successful visually and overly reliant on physical theatre.
The story follows Gerda on her quest to rescue her friend Kai. Kai has been placed under the spell of the Snow Queen and taken to her kingdom at the North Pole. Gerda encounters many characters who help and hinder her along the way including speaking animals, a possessive gardening enthusiast, robbers and wise women.
Refreshingly there are numerous very strong female characters in the story, none of them stereotypes, including the Snow Queen herself who is simultaneously regal, beautiful and terrifyingly brittle. Katie Hayes' performance in this role stylishly captures these characteristics. Abigail Hood’s portrayal of Gerda is genuine and engaging and Theo Ogundipe’s performance in a variety of cameo roles stands out for its focus and subtlety.