JOYCE MCMILLAN on THE SNOW QUEEN at Cumbernauld Theatre for The Scotsman 12.12.13.
3 stars ***
IF PANTOS are to be judged by the level of excitement in the audience, then this year’s Christmas show at Cumbernauld Theatre must score pretty highly. Within seconds of the show’s quiet opening – with actors muffled in sweaters and scarves introducing the story of best friends Kai and Gerda, and the wicked Snow Queen who is set to drive them apart – the kids are roaring out advice to the main characters, and leaping from their seats as the wicked Queen makes her first chilly appearance. The Snow Queen is one of the strongest of all Christmas stories, with its clear moral structure, and Gerda’s exciting northward quest to rescue her friend form the ice palace at the very top of the world, helped by a range of lovely animal friends, including a gorgeous reindeer; and Ed Robson’s straightforward version for five actors – with no songs, and a powerful storytelling mission – swings through the tale with impressive energy and directness.
Just here and there, the narrative momentum slackens. Gerda spends too long in the eerie garden of flowers, before she continues her northward journey . The first half ends oddly, with Gerda’s dream about her onward journey appearing on video, rather than in a moment of live theatre And the visual clues are not always as clear as they should be; when the robbers first appear, dressed in exaggerated stripey convict outfits, the kids seem baffled as to who they might be, and the visual representation of the story’s underlying battle between winter and summer is sometimes weak. With Samantha Foley and Julie Brown acting up a storm as Gerda and the Snow Queen, though, the main lines of the story are in safe hands; and in terms of cheerful, accessible Christmas storytelling for audience of primary school children, this latest Cumbernauld show delivers the goods, in style.