THE SNOW QUEEN
by Hans Christian Andersen adapted by Mike Kenny.
Polka Theatre 240 The Broadway SW19 1SB To 5 February 2011.
11am 15, 29 Jan.
2pm 8, 9, 16, 22, 23 Jan, 5 Feb.
2.30pm 15, 29 Jan.
5.30pm 8, 22 Jan.
also school performances weekdays.
Runs 1hr 30min One interval.
TICKETS: 020 8543 4888.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 30 December.
Brief and lively, subtly meshing the story that’s told with the impact on the story-tellers.
It starts in confusion and ends in harmony; which seems the point of Mike Kenny’s adaptation from Hans Andersen. The four young people on stage know there are seven stories involved (episodes, they might call them when they are older). Who’s going to tell each one, though? As they argue it seems things might never get going.
But they do, though there’s more quarrelling along the way. Over who’s going to play each part, as Gerda travels into icy regions to rescue her friend Kai from the Snow Queen’s cold imprisonment. Not everyone’s happy with their cameos, which include an old lady and a crow. But as the show keeps on the road, and the “stories” advance, cooperation increases, so by the end the quartet can line-up harmoniously at the curtain-call.
For Kenny’s adaptation takes them through a process similar to the experience of Andersen’s Kai, the boy whose eye and heart are splintered by the malice carried in fragments of a magical mirror. Without a friend risking dangers to rescue him, he would have been caught forever in icy heartlessness. As the storytellers get nowhere until they start working together, and gradually overcome reluctance to play unwelcome roles.
Jonathan Lloyd’s spare production rightly gives the actors priority in the mirroring of Andersen’s characters and Kenny’s actor-characters. Near the start and at the finish the image is of Gerda and Kai as close friends atop adjacent stepladders. Before the mirror’s fragments hit Kai, this is simply childhood friendship; finally, it’s a deeper friendship based on understandings matured by experience.
Kenny enriches Andersen’s theme, as Lloyd’s production makes clear, while always being brisk and lively, with moments both of humour and high tension. These are increased by Paddy Molloy’s animated images of shattering glass, and finally of the snow Queen herself, a figure all the more sinister for being seen only as a shadow pacing her icy rooms.
If, as pure adventure, this version takes time to start moving, the final impact as the experience of putting together a piece of theatre falls into line with Andersen’s story, is deeply moving.
Gerda: Amy Costello.
Kai: Jordan Maxwell.
Crow: Michael Bryher.
Robber Girl: Naomi Cortes.
Director: Jonathan Lloyd.
Designer/Costume: Miriam Nabarro.
Lighting: Phil Gladwell.
Composer: Julian Butler.
Animation: Paddy Molloy.