Thursday, February 29

The Snow Queen – Royal Lyceum Theatre Edinburgh

The Royal Lyceum’s Christmas show is always something to be anticipated and relished. Navigating a careful course away from the ubiquitous seasonal ‘panto’, it aims for the high road, a more refined magical, mirth-filled, musical path, under the helm of Artistic director David Greig’s discerning eye.

After the rather wonderful, An Edinburgh Christmas Carol, last year, which I loved, I was lucky enough to obtain a ticket for this year’s The Snow Queen, albeit a couple of weeks after the official press night.

The opening scene, with a magical set and some nicely shadowy projections introduces, Hans Christian Anderson’s famous tale in a darkly Scottish setting, Edinburgh to be exact, complete with icy Edinburgh castle. So far so good. Two orphan children, Gerda, played by the rather wonderful Rosie Graham and Kei her trusty sidekick, Sebastian Lim Seet are best pals, who dream of adventures.

Little do they realise that they are about to embark on one.

Following the accidental breaking of a magic mirror, The Snow Queen, played with relish by Claire Dargo, realises that there is an opportunity to blanket the world in an eternal Winter and to banish Spring forever. Mistakenly thinking that Kei is the missing piece of the puzzle, he is kidnapped by the snow queen and Gerda must embark on a classic ‘hero’s journey’ to free him.

The set design, perhaps the star of the show, by Emily James creates an appropriately lavish Victorian feel. Referencing the script, the set cleverly mirrors the boxes and balconies of the interior of the auditorium. This set shifts and transforms rather ingeniously folding and sliding, to serve the various locations in Gerda’s journey. The costumes are equally well thought out, none more so than that of the snow queen herself, with the sharp lines of an almost military jacket contrasting with a glittering and shimmering shard-filled skirt, all Icy blues and greens, glacier-like, and accompanied by an appropriately billowing snowy white cape.

Original Music and lyrics composed by Finn Anderson, is never far from this production, as it weaves its merry tale, with most of the cast also picking up various instruments throughout, which certainly adds to the overall production.

The standout scene of the first act sees Gerda (turned Dorothy!) wandering into a field of wild poppies, with more than a wink towards The Wizard of Oz, and with some good comic lines. Ironically, the audience relax into and enjoy this scene most because they recognise it and know how to react to it.

Despite the lavishness of the production and clever soundtrack there are times where the first act drags badly. Thankfully, just in time, Richard Conlon appears as Hamish the Unicorn, ‘I’m a Horse with A Horn, I’m A Unicorn’, a wonderfully colourful camp creation.

Whenever Conlon is on stage, most of the second act, this production flies. The irony here of course is that Hamish is really a classic Panto character, a tag which this production is clearly striving so hard to avoid.

A bit of an unbalanced production on the whole, which never really makes up its mind whether it is a dark mythology, slapstick comedy, or outright panto. Some great performances though from Rosie Graham in the lead, and the nastily brilliant Claire Dargo as the Snow Queen, help to flatten out the bumps and from the reaction of the crowd, as the snow drifts down at the finale, the magic of Christmas is here again.

Playing until 31st December,

Reviewer: Greg Holstead

Reviewed: 6th December 2023

North West End UK Rating:

Rating: 3 out of 5.