Show: The Snow Queen
Venue: Polka Theatre. 240 The Broadway, Wimbledon, London SW19 1SB
Credits: by Jude Christian, based on the story by Hans Christian Andersen. Directed by Emma Baggott.
Author: Susan Elkin
Performance Date: 19/11/2023
The Snow Queen
Susan Elkin | 20 Nov 2023 23:02pm
Photo: Ali Wright
This show is very good – in parts. And there’s a lot to be said for seeing the Sunday matinee because you certainly get the children and families vibe which is, after all, what Polka Theatre is all about
It’s a loose and ingenious retelling of Hans Christian Andersen’s story with a lot of emphasis on kindness, decency and redemption along with some nicely observed childish behaviour including temper tantrums, food faddiness, risk averse glee and foot stamping. Both the writer, Jude Christian and the director Emma Baggott have really run with how it feels to be a child.
Laura Ann Price’s set is a delight too. She uses long, floor to ceiling, illuminated ducting to represent the forest – which forms the fixed set – and it’s magically effective. Those of us who react badly to stage smoke, though, could have done without quite so much of it. I was in row E and ended up with a very dry throat at the end of this 95 minute show.
There’s some fine acting amongst the five cast members too. Paula James, in particular – crisp diction and warmth as narrator, homely accent as Grandma and a lovely eccentric buttercup among other things – excels in her versatility and conviction.
Also outstanding is Joe Boylan who starts as a rather daft ash tree, before having a lot of fun as the capricious, badly behaved Troll King. And his turn as a north country flower is a show stopper.
But there are, alas, problems. If you put in a loud (completely unnecessary) pop-style song at the very beginning, audience children will use it as a cover to talk under exactly when you want them to be settling down. Not a good idea.
The shouty, pantomimic over acting grates initially although we do eventually get down to some relatively realistic story telling. It insults audience children most of whom do not need to be patronised in this way.
The duet between Kai (Finlay McGuigan, generally good) and Phoebe Naughton (convincing) as the Snow Queen at the end of Act One is very dull and too long. You need something more dynamic than that immediately before the interval.
Rebecca Wilson finds a lot of wide-eyed Famous Five-style passion in Gerda but the character doesn’t develop much.
So yes – this is show full of pluses and minuses. Most of the children around me seemed pretty engaged and that’s the most important thing.