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The Snow Queen online
Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough
A POWERHOUSE in its own right, The Snow Queen is one of Hans Christian Andersen’s longest and most elemental stories.
It takes the reader on a journey of discovery in which good and evil tear each other apart but love wins through in the end.
The masterpiece of a wild imagination, it explores childhood terror and concludes with the Biblical exhortation: “Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the Kingdom of Heaven.”
It seems imperative that any dramatisation of this indisputable classic should generate a sense of wonderment as the little girl Gerda risks all to save her best friend Kai from the demonic snow queen.
That wonder is hard to replicate on stage at the best of times and it’s brave of the Stephen Joseph Theatre to attempt it during lockdown, with this online recording of a socially distanced performance in which the engaging and consummate Polly Lister assumes all the roles.
She pours her formidable talents into an array of characters, ranging from Gerda and Kai to their outrageous granny, an agile reindeer and a poetry-spouting raven.
She sings, swings and flowing seamlessly, from accent to accent, dialect to dialect and bass to soprano, moves from the innocence of childhood to the wisdom of the aged.
In a towering performance, she embodies the two sisters — the good Sorceress of Summer and her alter-ego and the vividly disturbing eponymous Snow Queen — in a masterclass of pantomime technique and audience manipulation.
Director Paul Robinson maintains the energy, Nick Lane’s script weaves humorous topical and local references into proceedings, Helen Coyston and lighting designer Paul Steer provide a stream of technological tricks, with Gemma Fairlie animating the puppets.
But something of the original story is missing.
Any tale which penetrates the deepest and darkest terrors of a child’s mind needs no embellishment.
Too much here is about noise and activity, too little about the magic, silence and imaginative power of this wintry wonderland.
Perhaps the company could have trusted the source material more and their desire to please all-comers less.
But the whole production does much to entertain — it’s a lively, vigorous and welcome distraction in difficult times. And Polly Lister is a marvel.
Available to download for £12 until January 31, box office: sjt.uk.com.
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