Review: The Snow Queen at the Nuffield Theatre (2/12/14)

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A refreshing breath of icy air which is sure to warm hearts this Christmas. Classic fairy-tales with a modern and experimental twist.

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An icy, bone-chilling December night with the wind whipping up around you is the perfect time to see a Christmas play about an ice palace and an unforgiving queen. The Snow Queen hosted by the Nuffield theatre was a refreshing Christmas family entertainment option this year. It was a daring new twist on old classic theatre show with a comic air, much like a panto, performed whole heartedly by the entire cast.

Much like Shrek the writers have tried to incorporate new twists on old fairy tales. This ambitious interpretation of a well known and loved story was a breath of fresh air. This being said, its delivery meant the play lost some of its direction and identity, at times a little confusing, particularly in the first half. It seemed to be trying too hard to achieve too much, although with the right intentions. It attempted  teaching children the morals of friendship while trying to challenging common social conventions such as marriage, which made many frown or grimace.

In spite of this the show is a fun enthusiastic piece which gets the audience chuckling, with sarcasm and irony, particularly with the flamboyant fabulous reindeer, played by Rob Castell. Although verging on stereotypical, it was hilarious and the laughter was deafening.

The Snow QueenThe first half remained confused, but the vocal performances were divine. The main actress Jessie Hart, who played Gerda, had a soft yet animated voice in her stage debut and the play was thankfully not over saturated with songs. The Snow Queen, played by Natasha Jaytileke, achieved subtle progression from sinister to vulnerable commanding the stage at all times. The combination of refined threatening sound and ghostly smoke with soft chimes of snow fall and impeccable timing connected the actors with the stage. The use of lighting, colour and shadows were done expertly in a theatre which doesn’t allow huge scenery changes. The audience in these scenes were dead silent clearly captivated by the drama. The main supplier of comic prose was, Jack Shalloo, playing the raven which brought a grin to every young face and a hearty chuckle to the adults, resembling a young Baldrick.

After a somewhat shaky start you should definitely not sneak off in the interlude. The second half is engaging and relatable. It is truly magical. We know the characters by this stage and have come to terms with the surreal impression of the traditional story.

Although comedy was a prevalent theme, it was often overplayed with aspects of modern culture which included hashtags, and rap numbers which just didn’t add to the experience. I feel this was an overcompensation to make it contemporary. However, regardless of this fact, the witch was a heart warming performance which tickled all. Joyce Greenway invigorated the audience with a sentimental message behind her delusions and got the whole audience clapping.

The Nuffield theatre is a small muted venue but The Snow Queen was dramatic to say the least. It created a tangible eerie atmosphere coupled with family fun. The overall impression of the play was low budget, it was a little rough and in need of polishing. Visually the play lacked lustre. Nevertheless, the level of acting was high, with a small cast able of quick character changes which proved their versatile acting skills. The costumes were  similarly low key, with the crow fashioning a gangster-like hoody, although the accent worked well in delivering a laugh. Though despite lack of imagination with costuming, prop use was well executed and novel.

The best moment of the show was the haunting song within the ice palace sung by the actor Jos Slovick, playing Kai. Slovick’s voice was melodic, sincere and captivated all our hearts. You could sense his loneliness and the harmonies with the snow queen were beautiful .

The audience received the show with enthusiasm, displayed in the smattering applause and cheering at the close of the show, I found the final number to be a little anticlimactic though genuine, giving something the kids could really enjoy.

All in all, it is a refreshing breath of icy air, which is sure to warm your hearts this Christmas. The writer, Georgia Pritchett, famed for work in Miranda, The Thick of It and Veep, was bold and took excessive risks which didn’t work 100% of the time but still made be clap wholeheartedly by the end. The songs by Dougal Irvine gave families a new soundtrack for Christmas and is perfect for children.

Tickets for The Snow Queen at the Nuffield Theatre can be bought here and shows run from now until the 4th January. 

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