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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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Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Snow Queen, theatre review

Published in the Guardian

Dundee Rep
Four stars
AT this time of year, even the more sober-minded shows play to the gallery with fart gags and slapstick. The distinguishing characteristic of Jemima Levick's production of The Snow Queen, by contrast, is just how seriously it takes the classic tale. Her staging has warmth and humour but, as any child in the audience will tell you, the stakes are too high to waste time clowning around.

This is especially true in Mike Kenny's adaptation, which is attuned to the dark transformative power of Hans Christian Andersen's story. He understands the mysterious horror of Kai changing overnight from sweet young boy to bolshie adolescent after a shard of broken mirror enters his heart. He understands the importance of the setting – a world in icy deadlock, heartless and cruel, where the Snow Queen symbolises the frightening allure of adult sexuality, and her kiss sends a ripple of dull colour across the sky. He understands, too, the bittersweet moral that life does not stand still, winter turns to spring, children become grownups and friendship turns into love.

He is also sensitive to the way fairytales enlist animals to help the young heroine. Ann Louise Ross exudes wisdom and hope as she morphs from grandmother to snowman, sunflower, crow and penguin, guiding Gerda on her journey to rescue Kai. Played by Molly Vevers, Gerda is wholesome, vulnerable and determined, and we never doubt the danger and importance of her task.

As Emily Winter's creepily seductive Snow Queen pounds the stage on stilts, leaving Martin McBride's Kai mesmerised, we are so gripped by the adventure that the merry, Slava's Snowshow-style finale almost seems like a distraction.
© Mark Fisher, 2012 (pic: Tommy Ga-Ken Wan)

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