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Mark Fisher
Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom
Follow me on Twitter at MarkFFisher, WriteAboutTheat and LimelightXTC I am a freelance journalist and critic specialising in theatre and the arts. Publications I write for include the Guardian and the Scotsman. I am the author of The Edinburgh Fringe Survival Guide: how to make your show a success and How to Write About Theatre: A Manual for Critics, Students and Bloggers. I am also editor of The XTC Bumper Book of Fun for Boys and Girls: A Limelight Anthology. From 2000-2003, I was the editor of The List magazine, Glasgow and Edinburgh's arts and events guide.
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Saturday, December 13, 2008

The Snow Queen

© Mark Fisher - published in The Guardian

The Snow Queen
Arches, Glasgow
2 out of 5

You don't need to scratch far beneath the icy surface of Hans Christian Andersen's Snow Queen to find an unsettling metaphor for the transition between childhood innocence and adult sexual knowledge. In the character of Kay, who is seduced into the dark realm of the Snow Queen after a shard of enchanted ice lodges in his eye, Andersen presents a boy on the brink of adolescence, all too eager to reject the love of his mother and best friend Gerda in exchange for wilder pleasures. Like Barrie's Peter Pan, it is a story loaded with nostalgia for infant purity and fear of adult corruption, which is why it still holds a spell over readers young and old.

It is disappointing, therefore, that playwright Megan Barker shows so little interest in this dimension of the story. She quickly dispatches Joe Arkley's Kay to the Snow Queen's palace and shifts her attention to Charlene Boyd's Gerda, sending her on a rescue mission that, confusingly, borrows elements of Sleeping Beauty, the Princess and the Frog and Cinderella.

Her purpose, as Gerda rejects the egotistical advances of the prince, is to create a plucky and independent-minded female role model. It's a worthy motive, but one that trivialises Andersen's darker theme and, seeing as Gerda is unchanged by the adventure, offers no transformative dimension in its place.

Barker and director Al Seed are regular fringe theatre practitioners at the Arches, and it's good to see them tackling more mainstream fare. But despite some spirited performances and imaginative use of the basement space, both script and production are uneven. The show stumbles from storytelling to drama to poorly animated shadow puppetry, pausing for some weak songs and clumsy comedy. Such eclecticism can be a strength of children's theatre, of course, but here it seems less inventive than restless.

© Mark Fisher, 2008

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