While the theatre world is currently excited about the casting of Elsa in Frozen the musical in London next year, the Park Theatre is celebrating the original Snow Queen with its Christmas production. Hans Christian Andersen’s classic tale, said to be loose inspiration behind Frozen, gets a modern makeover in Charles Way’s adaptation, which runs at the Park until early January.
Gerda (Ayesha Casely-Hayford) and Cei (Esmonde Cole) are childhood friends, having grown up living next door to one another. Gerda resides with her grandmother (Sarah-Louise Young) and strict father (Justin Brett) following the death of her mother, while Cei lives with his widowed mum (Paula James). When the Snow Queen (Frances Marshall) takes a shine to Cei and kidnaps him, Gerda has to embark on a journey through strange lands to save her friend before the Snow Queen turns the whole world to ice.
Andersen’s tale is a somewhat dark story but Charles Way has injected a lot of humour into his adaptation, resulting in an entertaining and energetic production suitable for all. Gerda meets a whole host of colourful characters on her journey, and hilarious talking flowers, eccentric royalty and overly aggressive robbers ensure there are plenty of laughs to be had throughout. With Justin Brett and Matt Cavendish members of the hit improve company Showstoppers, it’s no wonder that they have impeccable comic timing and are able to adapt as they, Sarah-Louise Young and Paula James take on a number of characters within the production. They’re all great to watch but Sarah-Louise Young is particularly entertaining as the secateur-wielding Mrs D; Paula Young amuses as the princess; Matt Cavendish is hilariously over the top as the Robber Queen; and Justin Brett, brilliant throughout, is scene-stealing as Daffodil (sorry, Narcissus) as well as softly spoken Bae the Reindeer (with thanks to puppetry from Christopher Barlow). Ayesha Casely-Hayford) and Cei (Esmonde Cole) are endearing as the childhood friends, their chemistry believable, while Frances Marshall is the perfect ‘baddie’, convincing in her performance and has an impressive voice to boot.
Director Abigail Anderson has ensured a tight and well-paced production which captures both your attention and imagination. The Snow Queen’s ice cold palace is brought to life thanks to Gregor Donelly’s creative set. Fragments of wood dotted around the stage open up to reveal ice, while shards hang from the ceiling – even the floor covering looks more like a skating rink at times. Richard Williamson’s colourful lighting reflects the changing seasons, and is used particularly creatively to represent the Northern Lights, while James Nicholson’s sound effects and Christopher James Ash’s original score add to the changing tone of the piece effectively.
The beauty of The Snow Queen is that it’s a tale that appeals to young and old alike, and the Park’s adaptation is no exception; it’s an engaging piece of theatre with a story of love, hope and friendship at its heart. On press night it was particularly heartening to see so many children engaging with theatre, dancing in their seats, interacting with the characters and occasionally, to the amusement of the audience, making their own comedic observations. The perfect family entertainment this Christmas, this is a warm and entertaining production which would melt even the Snow Queen’s heart!
The Snow Queen is playing at the Park Theatre until 4 January 2020.
Photo credit: Manuel Harlan