Reviewed by Deborah Mackenzie
We were drawn into a magical glittering ice palace where a story of old unfolds – be ready to sit mesmerised by the dancers as they leap, twirl and perform. Fans of Hans Christian Andersen’s much loved tale, which also inspired Frozen, will be delighted; works by Rimsky Korsakov are spectacular; the orchestra brought the show to life with each note, (the program is filled with little quotes of how different sounds make you shiver or what winter sounds like. Remarkable!) as we gazed wondrously at the visual effects by choreographer and the company’s CEO/Artistic Director Christopher Hampson and design by award-winning Lez Brotherston.
The story is of The Snow Queen and her sister, the Summer Princess. They live in an isolated ice palace, but the Summer Princess longs to leave and begs the Snow Queen to show her the future in the enchanted mirror. Looking through the mirror, the Summer Princess sees herself, many years later, embracing a handsome stranger.
The Summer Princess decides that she must leave immediately to find her true love; but the Snow Queen begs her to stay. Disguised as a traveller, the Summer Princess flees the palace, leaving the Snow Queen alone. This angers the Snow Queen as she contemplates a life alone and, in her rage, she breaks her enchanted mirror and vows to bring her sister back to the Ice Palace.
The Summer Princess joins a group of travellers and is known as Lexi, a pick pocket. In a nearby town, one crisp winter’s day Lexi recognises the man (Kai) she saw in the mirror. Kai proposes to his beloved Gerda and they become engaged, but Lexi waits for a moment to meet him.
The travelling circus arrives in town, acrobats, clowns, a strong man and ballerina each take turns as the Ringmaster gathers an audience. This is the ideal opportunity for Lexi to work the crowd but gets caught. Kai feels sorry for her and comes to the rescue helping her avoid capture by embracing her. Gerda is suspicious of Lexi and what her true intentions are.
As the crowd are gathered and being entertained, the Snow Queen appears, freezing time. Her sister realises that she intends to take Kai for her own and with a shard of glass from the enchanted mirror, the Snow Queen freezes Kai’s heart for all time.
The Ringmaster calls upon the audience for a volunteer to help in the disappearing trick and Kai is selected. The Snow Queen freezes time again at that moment and she leads Kai away, witnessed by Lexi.
With the circus over and night falling, a worried Gerda is left alone with only Lexi to help her. Lexi leads Gerda to a fortune teller who reveals that Kai has been stolen away by and bewitched by the Snow Queen. Lexi tells Gerda that there is no hope in getting Kai back as the Snow Queen’s powers are too strong. But Gerda is not going to give up on her true love and sets off to find him.
As Gerda travels through the cold and dark forest, the Snow Queen tries to stop her: Jack Frosts, Snowflakes and Snow Wolves surround her, but she finally reaches the Ice Palace. Gerda finds Kai but he no longer recognises her as he is under the Snow Queen’s spell.
The Snow Queen is furious and attacks Gerda with a shard from the mirror, but Lexi comes to Gerda’s rescue. The sisters battle and tragically fall through the broken mirror and her spell is broken. Kai and Gerda reunite again.
Although the theatre was full, silence echoed through the stalls as everyone was captivated by the performance. The storyline was easy to follow, the scenes were clever in so many ways, I loved the way the we had the feeling and visual effect of running through the forest, the bandits campsite with caravans, the fire burning and the moon hanging low. A wonderful touch of the violinist playing on stage and everyone dancing; it is my idea of what travellers would do in real life. This show is one that will turn any icy heart on fire.
Tickets cost from £19 to £46 (booking fees may apply).
The Snow Queen is at the Festival Theatre in Edinburgh from 7-29 December 2019, for more information or to book tickets visit www.capitaltheatres.com or call the box office on 0131 529 6000.
Festival Theatre, 13/29 Nicolson Street, Edinburgh, EH8 9FT | 0131 529 6000