Frosty But Not Frozen: The Snow Queen At Park Theatre
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Hans Christian Andersen’s 1844 tale of the cold-hearted Snow Queen who seeks to bring eternal winter to the world has enjoyed a new phase of fame as the very loose inspiration for Disney’s Frozen franchise. The first thing to note, then, is that nobody in this production sings about wanting to build a snowman or letting anything go; the second is that the tone of Andersen’s narrative is darker and chillier than the story of Elsa and Anna.
That hasn’t stopped The Snow Queen’s marketing team boldly attempting a thematic tie-in with the recently released animated sequel. We can’t blame them for trying, but families of very small Elsa fans should note that the 5+ age guidance given for this production feels a little on the low side. The script is rather wordy, and the two-hour runtime a little long, for younger children. The 8 and 10 year olds present in the audience on our night, however, were absolutely lapping the performance up.
The same team who brought last year’s anti-panto production of JM Barrie’s original Peter Pan script to the Park, uses a similar recipe here. Frantic cast doubling, an imaginative set design which transforms between worlds at the flick of a plank, and an engagingly physical performance bring Andersen’s tale of vanity, coercion, kidnap and icy world domination to life. There are some real moments of theatre magic that have us believing the stage just turned from a garden into a beach, a forest into an ice palace.
Ayesha Casely Hayford is winsome and sweet as Gerda, the innocent protagonist braving a treacherous world to save her kidnapped friend Kai (played by Esmonde Cole), and Frances Marshall is icy and imperious as the titular character. The rest of the cast do very well in a variety of smaller roles. The most pleasurable thing about the evening is the performers’ ability to interact with and bounce off the audience, including its younger members. Squeals of 10-year-old glee encourage the cast to find humour and lightness in the script which might otherwise err on the side of bleak.
There are minor changes from Anderson’s text — mostly in the service of keeping the action swinging along. Nobody in the audience much seemed to mind either that or the absence of Olaf the talking snowman. Four snowflakes out of five.
The Snow Queen, Park Theatre, Clifton Terrace, N4 3JP. Tickets £18.50 - £32.50 (children under 10: £15-£30), until 4 January 2020.
Last Updated 09 December 2019