The New Wolsey Theatre has been producing a Rock and Roll panto for a number of years and they were not going to let this year stop them. This is a blended pantomime being performed live on stage to a reduced audience in the theatre and simultaneously live streamed to people’s homes.
One of the benefits of this type of performance is that it makes it accessible to everyone. The show has captioning and audio description options for those at home and in the theatre and also one of the shows is being signed. The show is also suitable for those who may find a traditional performance challenging, there is an additional option of a special relaxed performance available.
The Snow Queen is not one of the usual pantomimes, but the story of the evil Snow Queen, who tries to cover the world in cold by freezing the heart of a boy, is one that most people will know. It is a traditional tale of good conquering evil with love, friendship and teamwork.
The small cast of five work hard with most of them playing two characters and all playing the instruments in the band. Being a Rock n Roll pantomime, the songs are a key part of the show, they hit the right spot being up tempo, and with something for everyone. There is one slightly dubious choice of song for a family pantomime, but the kids may be distracted from the words by the dame’s reactions.
Regular New Wolsey Theatre pantomime actors return once again (along with the family favourites the animal puppets) bringing a warm feeling of normality to the proceedings. James Haggie plays the contrasting roles of Icicle and Simon with delicious menace and comedy timing respectively. Also in opposing roles is Natasha Lewis as Primrose and The Snow Queen delivering cheerful and haunting songs with ease. The Dame, Sigrid Smorgasboard is played by Romford Simmonds, with original jokes and cheeky humour it is this character that drives the show forwards. Lucy Wells takes on the role of Gerda her expressions and beautiful voice make her the perfect hero as she rescues Kay (Adam Langstaff). Langstaff also plays Sven the Blacksmith, his reaction to the treatment by the dame raises laughs from the audience.
There is a screen at the back of the stage that is used to show effects such as the mirror shattering, the Snow Queens sleigh journey and a couple of the songs. This works well, especially for the songs, showcasing different parts of Ipswich and allowing for an enhancement of the story that is not possible on stage. It has enabled a creative solution to some of pantomimes long term problems, how do you make a sleigh fly or portray a 1000-mile journey on a stage and a budget.
Sitting in your own home watching a panto will never replace the excitement of being in the theatre, but this is a good substitute, bringing back the joy of live theatre. The camera angles mean that you get eye contact from the actors, they address the people at home and there is an interactive vote. You feel part of the performance and not just an observer. Although it’s not a high budget spectacular The New Wolsey Theatre and Peter Rowe have created a Christmas treat that can be enjoyed by everyone, no matter where they are.
Playing online until 24th December 2020 https://www.wolseytheatre.co.uk/shows/the-snow-queen-online/
Reviewer: Annette Nuttall
Reviewed: 18th December 2020
North West End UK Rating: ★★★