Edinburgh Fringe 2014
When Kai is captured by the Snow Queen, it’s up to his friend Gerda to set out on a journey to rescue him. This cast of five weaves a magical world of snow, ice and hope.
‘Do you wanna hear a story?’, asks one of the characters in this fresh take on The Snow Queen. ‘It’s a good one – it’s the best’, we are promised. This adaption is efficently economical, particularly in the way that all of the creatures, princessess and villians that Gerda meets on her quest are actually the Snow Queen’s sidekicks in disguse (James Beglin and Jessica Brien). It’s a clever narrative trick that manages to cram a lot of the original text’s more wandering passages into a lean performance. These two performers, incidentally, do a lot of the heavy lifting in terms of getting laughs from the audience, and both are hugely engaging personalities.
This is an effiicent and sweet adapation of the Hans Christian Andersen classic. After a slightly too earnest opening that relies somewhat too heavily on narration and exposition, there are lovely and engaging performances from all. The tendency to show, not tell, does come back at various points during the hour, and, yes, that’s to be expected when adapting text that’s mainly quest (it isn’t easy to have your main character climbing every mountain when you’re confined to a black box), but once the script – and the production – gains more confidence in itself, the whole thing attains a great deal more warmth. This is an efficent and sweet adapatation of the Hans Christian Andersen classic.
Such ecomony of storytelling, however, does occasionally have casualties: it’s not quite clear enough that the villian (and her palace) are brought low because of Gerda’s refusal to reflect the Snow Queen’s hatred back at her, which is a pity, since that’s actually an elegant idea that’s not entirely present in the original text.
It’s a pity also that a romantic relationship between Kai and Gerda is made implicit: one of the strengths of the original story is that the kids are neither sibling or partner, simply best friends. That said, this and other moments – such as the Queen preening peacock-like for Kai’s attention – do hint, for those audience members that want to pick up on such things, a more adult motive for the Snow Queen’s interest in Kai.
There is lovely ensemble work going on here, with interesting images and movements highlighted by Bernie Byrnes’ gorgeous lighting design. It would have been good to have seen more of The Snow Queen herself, as Lysanne van Overbeek is an arresting presence.
We spoke earlier of our concern that there was slightly too much narration in the show, which runs the risk of losing the interest of the core audience. It could well be that we needn’t worry. When one of the Snow Queen’s lackeys snaps ‘Do you wanna hear this story or not?’ one of the very youngest members in the audience is unable to stop themselves: ‘Yeah!’. Throughout the rest of the hour, they’ve been leaning forward, wide eyed and open mouthed. And that, frankly, is a much more important review than this one could ever hope to be.