THE SNOW QUEEN
by Anupama Chandrasekhar based on the story by Hans Christian Andersen Hindi lyrics by Avaes Mohammaad.
Unicorn Theatre (Weston auditorium) 147 Tooley Street SE1 2HZ To 8 January 2012.
Runs 2hr One interval.
TICKETS: 020 7645 0560.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 10 December.
Colourful Snow Queen takes to India.
There might seem something perverse in relocating Hans Christian Andersen’s Scandinavian story of an icy-hearted queen and a girl’s rescue mission to her polar castle, to India. A journey north there moves towards tropic and equator.
But also the snow-covered Himalayas, suggested by the high, white and glacial-coloured buildings backing the burnt-orange floor of Sophia Lovell Smith’s set, its outline shaping the southern part of the country – a colourful, thematically apt setting for Anupama Chandrasekhar’s adaptation, which in its humour and game-like elements suggests the playfully constructive influence of work with pupils of Brixton’s Hill Mead Primary School.
There’s also the current near-ubiquitous need to refer to iPods or suchlike technology in retelling traditional tales. But the story’s main point is strongly made, with the loyalty and courage Gowri (a strong, sympathetic performance, yet again at this theatre, by Amaka Okafor) shows in her determined mission to reclaim her friend Kumar from the Snow Queen’s grip.
Research in modern India pays off in such moments as a hectic rickshaw ride; there’s a Bollywood scene played for comedy and more Bollywood as a Tridev of three interlinked, if not quite conjoined, male robbers ineffectually lumber around while svelte, swift Asha (Deeivya Meir, forceful and focused) outwits everyone with her bow-and-arrow.
There are many impressive choreographic moments too. But character development is sometimes skimpy – Asha’s turn from criminality is merely announced, motivated only by a comment from Gowri – there’s no space to show the idea developing in the robber-girl.
It’s not the only point where theatricality and event run ahead of the characters; elsewhere Nimmi Harasgama (ice-like in appearance as the Queen, if occasionally trying a bit hard to display the character’s cold-heart) provides a fine comic cameo of a goddess, but one which, like some other events, stands out on its own rather than helping propel the story forward.
Most established tales behind Christmas-time plays hold a trap for adapters, and diversion is the Snow Queen’s. Chandrasekhar opens strongly with a story-behind-the-story. But the occasional weakening of the narrative pulse is the only limitation of this colourful, often delightful show.
Gowri: Amaka Okafor.
Kumar/Raj/Tridev: Ashley Kumar.
Patti/Vasanthi/Kiki: Pooja Ghal.
Snow Queen/Goddess: Nimmi Harasgama.
Ice Jinn/Kaka/Tridev: Asif Khan.
Woman 1/Neelima/Asha: Deeivya Meir.
Bobby/Tridev/Tree: Raj Bajaj.
Director: Rosamunde Hutt.
Designer: Sophia Lovell Smith.
Lighting: Phil Clarke.
Composer: Arun Ghosh.
Choreographer: Ash Mukherjee.
Movement: Emily Gray with Trestle Theatre.
Fight directors: Rachel Bown-Williams, Ruth Cooper Brown.
Dramaturg: Carl Miller.