Hans Christian Andersen’s stories continue to enchant children and adults alike and ‘The Snow Queen’ remains a popular favourite on stage. Aireborne Theatre are a talented young group who present a pleasant version of the tale, combining music, dance and an array of make-shift props to tell the story. The friendly cast interacted easily with the younger members of the audience as they took their seats. It’s a shame that this level of interaction wasn’t kept up during the performance itself as it might have made for a much more engaging show.
The cast, acting exactly like children playing make-believe, used blankets and shawls to create the magical land of the story leaving the rest for the audience’s imagination. Jordan Taylor is an excellent narrator, spinning the tale with a warm and engaging tone. The cast of nine performers switch between a dizzying number of characters, with most performers playing at least three or four each. Though these changes in character were usually made clear by costumes changes, it often felt a bit chaotic.
Stephanie Withers’ representation of the Raven adds a spark of humour to the show. This is especially commendable considering the puppet she brings to life is essentially made from an old shoe, a coat-hanger and some black fabric; not much to work with. The formidable Snow Queen of Andersen’s tale is disappointingly lacking in presence though. Despite her energy and a few melodramatic evil laughs, Alexandra Webb never quite manages to be convincing as the Queen. However, a note in the cast list does say that Webb's performance will unfortunately be restricted due to a broken toe, which perhaps explains why she is onstage so little.
The end result feels a bit like the Queen’s broken mirror: there is some really good stuff here but the pieces don’t fit together. It needed to be tighter and could have included more audience interaction. At times, the brilliance of the original story shines through and Aireborne’s use of dance and music to illustrate the tale suggests they have the capacity to be a lot more inventive. This is enjoyable children’s theatre, but it never becomes great; any moments of brilliance melt quickly and fail to leave a lasting impression.