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FringeReview Scotland 2022

The Snow Queen

The Southside Group presented by The Occasion

Genre: Community Theatre, Drama, Fringe Theatre, Theatre

Venue: Govanhill Parish Church


Low Down

Friends Gerda and Kai are separated as the Snow Queen swoops to kidnap Kai. Gerda, undeterred and a true friend, starts on her travel to rescue and find him. On the way she has to deal with a wide number of challenges but, with the help and adventures involving many – including a crow, the old lady with her spring garden, the Princess who needs a Prince and those kidnapping baddies in the forest she triumphs. By the end, and with the help of the audience, in true panto style, the Snow Queen is banished. It’s all behind us!


When I went to university to study drama, the first essay I was asked to write was on the role of the audience. Being an arrogant 17 year old, I simply did not understand the concept of an audience having anything other than a passive role. I failed the essay.

Since then, I have come to realize just how important audiences are. Of course, productions can end up about the economics of audiences and how they support the arts through their pocket, or how they go and watch tat whilst the worthy stuff struggles to achieve such financial reward.

Occasionally there is a true opportunity for economics and the enthusiasm to collide. Here was such an occasion, presented, ironically, by the Occasion.

This was the very first public performance of The Southside Group. They are an adult performance group of special needs adults. Performers is actually what they are.

Gracing the beauty of a Church in the heart of a fairly infamous part of Glasgow, they presented a worthy piece of text which transcended the sum of its parts to become a whole experience. Within the confines of the church were a group of supporters – friends and family – who gave the people they knew the enthusiastic response they deserved. And why not? You could feel the benefit of the performance coming across to the audience whilst at the same time the pride with which they saw the people on stage being treated with care and respect. In between was a tentative and beautiful relationship which showed the best of theatrical experiences being enjoyed by the worthiest of theatre goers – the ones that don’t might not be economically targeted as audience fodder or who may have more important priorities and responsibilities…

And so, to the creative elements of the piece. The performances were great. Of course, there are a few who may fall shy of an Olivier, however, as dramatic piece of creative arts from a disabled group this was always going to be authentic. We can carp and moan about them having to work on a piece of able-bodied storytelling, but this was their opportunity to show themselves as actors. And as actors they followed a gentle and gentile pace which was measured and fantastic. There was a calmness and comfort in their performances which transcended into us feeling we were in an event that ought to have our silence and respect.

When I previously reviewed this group online, I opined that melodrama was perhaps their metier. Here they showed that they had learned from those experiences and were looking, in some parts, for an opportunity to delve into subtlety. There are mixed levels of performance here, but everyone was given an appropriate and artistic opportunity, including the non-verbal to participate. Braw.

The choice of material brought some opportunities for nice set pieces, and I particularly loved the skating, the shadow work, the introduction and development of the Snow Queen and the big bang!

It was presented with high production values, aided by a naturally bright acoustic environment – builders of churches knew what they were doing. Nobody was too quiet, and all the props and costumes were highly imagined. The staging of the piece with the white backdrop for the shadow work was tremendous.

That they received a standing ovation at the end might appear to have an element of cliché around it, however this was a community event with theatre at its heart that showed just what theatre can do. As a piece of special needs artistry this is as good as I have seen. I can sit back and consider what else there should be on show and given the work of such luminaries as Graeae, Lung Ha, Ramps on the Moon and of course, Birds of Paradise, but we must not ghettoize things and worthy pieces need the other work alongside it. If all we credit is challenging work then the challenge of entertainment is lost, and alongside it, the joy of discovery, development and performing. I ran a Youth theatre for 16 years and Brecht and Shakespeare were all very well, but Seussical did it every time…

Of course, the next show might not be as smooth, or as good, or hit the same heights. And the one following that might struggle more than the last. That should matter not a jot. It does not detract from the fact that one Friday night, in panto time, I saw a terrific piece of theatre. Full. Stop.


Show Website

The Occasion