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Review of The Snow Queen at Royal & Derngate (Royal), Northampton

After spending the Christmas season watching three pantomimes and the magnificent Chrismassy feel of The Lorax in London, I finally managed to make my way to the Royal for their very traditional Christmas play. This year was The Snow Queen; the reverse co-production from Nuffield, Southampton where Merlin had this year headed.

Adapted by Georgia Pritchett from the Hans Christian Anderson tale (the film Frozen to the modern audience), it tells the tale of The Snow Queen losing her baby to a troll. Leaving the only way to regain the babe by getting another child to go through an evil mirror. Kai her first attempt fails as the child must go willingly, however perhaps his childhood friend Gerda might just be what the evil Queen wants, as the child must travel willingly to the Snow Palace, and that she does to rescue her friend.

The setting up of the story comes in the opening few minutes of the play via our Queen (Caroline Head) and a cleverly realised and evil sounding troll. So evil sounding that a very young lad in the row in front was soon terrified by all the roars and lightning sounds. It does advise 5+ in the brochure and that age range is wisely put, but sadly not followed by a few present.

However after those opening few minutes it quickly stays generally light in sinister levels and while played with intent by Caroline Head, the Snow Queen never becomes very scary, just a mild threat. She is also despite her character being the plays title, not where much of the entertainment comes from in this play. The characters that we meet along Gerda's journey are where the fun and interest comes.

Early on Gerda meets up with the very comic and rapping Raven played with a glorious sense of fun by Tosin Olomowewe. He is immensely watchable and provides many of the laughs to be had on the journey. During that journey we meet Prince Charming and his Princess who now married, sadly are not exactly living happily ever after. Playing the Prince in one of his two main roles is the rather superb Richard Pryal, who in this role and later Rudolph effortlessly steals every scene he is in. Playing the Princess is Mairi Barclay who while great fun in this role, is so much better in her later one as the grown up and really rather viscous Red Riding Hood, now Robber Maiden.

The scene however with the Prince and Princess is one of two totally outstanding ones in the play and incredibly funny. The second scene of enormous fun is when our adventurers meet The Witch (Angela Bain), who is not really witchy at all and has gone all Bake-off and created that famous house made of cake and sweets. This, like the former scene has a super song written by Dougal Irvine, with the latter getting the whole audience clapping along. There is also the best line of the play in this scene which relates to a wasp, some licking and a knocker.

Playing the two youngsters are Jonny Weldon as Kai and Mona Goodwin (recently seen on BBC series Capital) as Gerda. Weldon has a rather thankless role, whose highlight pretty much comes at the start when he is rollerblading around the stage. Not long after The Snow Queen has him and he is rather sorrowfully trapped in a frozen cage for much of the play. He does however the best he could though with the role. Goodwin is really wonderful as the at first rather dull Gerda whose adventures seem to bring out the best in her. She grows in the role as the play develops and we learn to love her and live the journey with her.

On that journey director Gary Sefton, set designer Ti Green and choreographer Andrew Wright provide us with a thrilling adventure provided very cleverly by frames and sticks. Yes a journey through a wicked forest can come from a collection of poles, if the scene is created deftly and perfected in performance. Also delicious on the eye were the Ice Palaces shimmering ice crystals. Just one part of the quality lighting and sound scape that also made this a delight to both eye and ear,

So a most wonderful adventure and created by a talented cast of seven weaving majestically between their roles. Recommended to all, as long as you are over five, not going to talk, rustle sweet wrappers or constantly use your phone (sorry, it was one of those audiences). You have paid for your ticket, so please have some respect to the performers on stage and yourself for that matter. Forget Frozen and all that animation business, go and catch some real live fairy tale antics!

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Performance reviewed: Monday 28th December, 2015 at the Royal & Derngate (Royal), Northampton.

 
The Snow Queen runs at the Royal & Derngate until Sunday 3rd January, 2016.
Details here: http://www.royalandderngate.co.uk/Productions/125364/193220/thesnowqueen

For further details visit the Royal & Derngate website at http://www.royalandderngate.co.uk/

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