Trundling into view as part of C Theatre’s 25th anniversary is
A decent stab at providing a twist on a classic
C Theatre’s pitch is to engage older children who are “fed up with pantomimes” and treat them to slightly more adult theatre. With this in mind, all the familiar territory of the story is suitably covered, but with a couple of interesting variations along the way. For instance, here Kay and Gerda are brothers rather than an unrelated young boy and girl, and as such greater emphasis is given to a newly added romantic interest between Kay and the titular Snow Queen. Similarly, other classic fairy-tales from Hans Christian Andersen are woven into the fabric of the play as stories that characters tell each other.
Herein lies a problem. Storytelling, particularly children’s storytelling, is a vastly different skill from regular acting. The cast bounce off each very well when speaking normal dialogue, but all attempts at storytelling fall somewhat flat. The issue is the desire to ‘tell’ and not ‘show’; indeed, this is an issue with the script as a whole. The attention spans of several children in front of me were clearly tested by the relentless narration and the lack of visual stimulation to accompany it. An additional hindrance lay in the fact that the stories were being told to other characters rather than the children themselves, and the characters for the most part simply stood still to listen. Only The Emperor’s New Clothes was acted out in any way whatsoever and this was done so close to the beginning of the play that you might be forgiven for thinking you’d walked into the wrong fairy-tale.
Much more engaging were the interactions between a pair of the Snow Queen’s bumbling henchmen, who played off each other strongly and supported the whole play from beginning to end. Both were received eagerly by the children sitting in the front row judging by the giggles. They too however were hindered in part by a suspect script. The target audience of ‘older children’ is a difficult one to judge with several lines and jokes completely missing the mark, either being too highbrow or too patronising.
There is much to work with here however. The costuming is simple but very effective, particularly in the case of The Snow Queen. At times, the lighting compensated the slightly empty stage well and with a bit more help from sound, some scenes have the potential to become almost magical. The use of glitter to simulate the creation of snow by the Queen is a quiet, clever and mesmerising trick. This was a preview performance and therefore things like improved actor confidence and better comic-timing will develop naturally as the run progresses and will improve the show as a whole. Most importantly, if more is done over the next few performances by the cast and crew to hit the needs of the most important members of their audience – the children – then the show will truly come into its own.
For now The Snow Queen is a decent stab at providing a twist on a classic. With a bit of tinkering, it could be enchanting.