Nick Le Mesurier reviews The Snow Queen, presented by Playbox Theatre at the Dream Factory, Warwick
“Not all stories are gentle stories.” Indeed, they are not. Hans Christian Andersen’s (Jamie Whitelaw) warning at the beginning of this marvellous winter spectacle is prescient. For Andersen’s most famous tale is a story of good versus evil, of warm friendship battled against chilling malevolence.
Two children, Kay (Ethan Phillips / Rob Redwood) and Gerda (Freya Travis / Olivia Hass), are torn apart when a splinter from the Snow Queen’s (Eilidh Evans) magic mirror gets in Kay’s eye. From then on, the normally loving child loses his sense of empathy. He sees only wickedness in the world and believes only in one thing, the wicked Snow Queen, who takes him as her plaything to her palace in the far North. Luckily for him, his friend Gerda sets out to rescue him, believing against all odds that he is still alive. To say she succeeds is not to give the game away but to point to the marvellous journey she has along the way. She meets both friends and foes: a strange sorceress (Paige Cooper) who tries to seduce her with flowers, two Robber Girls (Ottilie Lampitt and Amelie Ashley-Timms) one of whom shares a secret, and a Raven (Kate Jones), who helps her on her way. The Snow Queen may be mistress of a dark truth, that life is short, but Gerda finds a way to overcome it.
The story itself is enough to hold an audience in thrall, as it has for generations, but Playbox give it a massive boost with some of their most spectacular staging yet. I am always impressed by the way they create so many different worlds on stage with almost no props, only light, music and people. I counted about 50 players of all ages, each choreographed to the nanosecond to work in harmony with the others. The costumes are gorgeous, the acting is powerful and the music loud and rhythmical.
Playbox rarely do things by halves, and even their smaller productions punch way above their weight. The Snow Queen is a terrific show, and brings a year of great theatre in the region to a spectacular and thrilling close.
* The Snow Queen runs until December 31. Visit www.playboxtheatre.com or call 01926 419555 to book.