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Isabella James

Review: THE SNOW QUEEN at Polka Theatre

The-Snow-Queen.jpg Polka Theatre in Wimbledon puts on the wintery classic The Snow Queen for families this Christmas. With imaginative puppetry and a comedic ensemble, this twist on Hans Christian Anderson’s 150-year-old tale takes the audience on an adventure to find friendship, bravery and the meaning of ‘forever’.

Mike Kenny’s adaptation tells us the story of The Snow Queen through the eyes of four young playmates, exploring an attic full of bits and bobs just begging to become props. The framing device allows for the actors to emphasise the element of play as they decide who will be cast as who and which parts they will each get to tell.

Once the story begins, we hear of a mirror made by demons that shows only the evil in the world. All good things will turn ugly when mankind is reflected inside, but one day the mirror is dropped from the sky and smashes into a million pieces.

We are then introduced to Gerda (Isabelle Chiam) and her best friend, who is not a brother but as close as if he was, Kai (George Wigzell). They play happily together and tend to their small garden of roses, but everything changes when Kai gets a shard of the mirror stuck in his eye and another in his heart.

The ensemble of four take us through Gerda’s adventure to get her best friend back from the icy clutches of the Snow Queen. Playing a variety of supporting roles, Tigger Blaise and Sam Hoye skilfully twist and turn into flowers, crows, princesses, robbers, and especially in Hoye’s case, a variety of little old ladies.

Although some comedy comes through from the actors playing children playing characters, the most laughs are in the slapstick elements. The young audience enjoyed the visual jokes far more than the scripted gags which sometimes fell flat and seemed underpowered in delivery.

There were some simplistic directorial choices which often worked well, like the red-hot hole in the ground to heat up the igloo, and sometimes didn’t. The Snow Queen herself was a little underwhelming in her simplicity and sometimes the production felt like it was seeking laughs over awe.

The story was well paced and kept the audience engaged but the final message of ‘Nothing Lasts Forever’ seemed like a slightly nihilistic focus for a children’s Christmas show. The Snow Queen runs until 4 Feb at Wimbledon’s Polka Theatre.