THE SNOW QUEEN
by Hans Christian Andersen adapted by Charles Way.
Rose Theatre 24-26 High Street KT1 1HL To 8 January 2012.
2pm 7, 8 Jan.
7pm 3-7 Jan.
Runs 2hr 20min One interval.
TICKETS: 08444 821556.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 20 December.
Not quite the top of the tree for a writer of some fine adaptations.
Hans Andersen’s story is one of the finest to have become a source of Christmas season plays. There’s friendship and a brilliant concrete (or glass) image for its destruction by self-obsession. There’s loyalty and a search which would have succumbed to danger and difficulty had it not been for a girl’s determined friendship.
Plus comedy along the way, and in the Snow Queen herself a double perspective of the seasonal: the reality of cold and the need for a thaw – flowers bloom back home where granny’s reading the story to surrounding children. It really is love that makes the world go round.
And this story has none of the traps of so many, like the hundred-year gap at the heart of Sleeping Beauty, which Charles Way solved magnificently; his is among the very best adaptations of any of well-known stories, and far more helpful to the narrative pulse than Scottish playwright Stuart Paterson’s use of separate stories to create Beauty’s hundred-year dream.
But Paterson’s supreme in The Snow Queen. Here, it’s Way whose inventions clog rather than speed a story in which time is vital. Once a splinter of the Queen’s glass enters young Cei’s eye he becomes embittered, seeing only worms not buds, and is imprisoned in her polar castle. His friend Gerda journeys through friendly and hostile distractions to rescue him.
None of the adventures here have the clarity of Paterson’s; even the Scottish writer’s pantomime insertions energise and define the story. Way introduces a Gradgrind-like teacher (preparing for ‘Dickens year’?) and some movement sections that don’t work with this cast. And the Robber-Girl section has none of Paterson’s poignancy, with its keen picture of Gerda bringing a new horizon to Robber Girl’s life.
Sara Stewart’s Snow Queen isn’t icy-enough at core, though she looks chillingly radiant when standing centre-stage. Visually, the designs – trees of words – brilliantly enforce the story idea and create the complexity of Gerda’s travel, while Bettrys Jones provides a resourceful, believable character.
So there are good things; if only the narrative, dramatic way weren’t made so bumpy by some of the additions.
Gerda: Bettrys Jones.
Cei: Zac Fox.
Mr Overskou/Jj/Bae: Michael Matus.
Mrs Fyn./Lily/Robber Woman: Charlotte Roach.
Grandma/Mrs D/Laughing Robber: Deirdra Morris.
John/Bindweed/Fred: Christian Edwards.
Eliza/Snowdrop/Frederica/Robber Girl: Sian Robins-Grace.
Snow Queen: Sara Stewart.
Director: Natascha Metherell.
Designer: Su Blackwell.
Lighting: Mike Gunning.
Sound: John Leonard.
Music: Alex Silverman.
Movement: Sian Williams.
Costume: Mia Flodquist.
Associate designer: Thomasin Marshall.
Assistant costume: Kitty Callister.