Pegasus Theatre - The Snow Queen
5th December 2014 to 4th January 2015.
Review from the Newbury Weekly News.
Chillout Queen has heart of cold
A winter highlight at Oxford's Pegasus theatre
The Snow Queen, at Pegasus Theatre, Oxford, until January 4
One of the theatrical highlights of the season is the Pegasus Theatre Christmas production, Mike Kenny's 2005 adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen's The Snow Queen. Directed by the Pegasus artistic director Jonathan Lloyd, the story is framed in a children's playground, where four kids enact the story of the Snow Queen.
At the heart of the play is the friendship of Gerda (Abigail Hood) and Kai (Oliver Wellington), their Scandinavian-ness hinted at subtly because they wear Nordic patterned cardigans. Kai is infected with evil when two shards of a magician's shattered mirror land in his eye and heart. He forgets his past, and Gerda becomes a distant memory. He lives as a minion of the Snow Queen in her palace at the North Pole, endlessly failing to solve a riddle which would set him free.
Gerda sets off on a quest to find Kai. She encounters a fast-flowing river, a witch who grows narcotic flowers, a scary robber-girl (Gehane Strehler), a friendly crow (Jeremy Barlow), an authoritarian royal family, a cutesy reindeer and a mysterious Inuit lady on her way to the frozen north. Most of the elderly women are played with gusto by the game Barlow.
The staging is clever. A dome-shaped climbing frame and two metal ladders are magically transformed into a horse and carriage and an Inuit's igloo (designer Liz Cooke). While the stage is uncluttered, vast film projections are beamed on to the back wall to become the Snow Queen, arms outstretched like the gnarled branches of a leafless tree, her head framed like the top of the Statue of Liberty.
The coldness of the north is conjured up with projections of snow falling, but the most arresting image is that of the green-tinged Northern Lights, created out of strong, rotating beams of light shining through a fog of dry ice (Arnim Freiss, lighting and animation). Flashing lights catch on shards of shining snowflakes suspended on the side walls to convey the whiteness of the north. Simplicity and complexity merge in a delightful production for young and old.
Hugely recommended for the holidays.
There are reviews from the Oxford Times ("the overall effect is magical and full of surprises... [The Snow Queen] contains real psychological depth and subtlety and this fine production, which runs until the new year, does it proud") and Daily Info ("the show is a bit edgy, and my daughter grasped my hand fairly tightly at times... a moving tale of friendship and challenge, and they handled it both sensitively and innovatively").