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Theatre Review: The Snow Queen--Dundee Rep ****

Joy Watters reviews a solid production with commendable elements but some considerable sound problems.

The Rep weaves together traditional and modern threads in its new musical adaptation of The Snow Queen. Noisemaker, Scott Gilmour and Claire McKenzie, have created a fresh telling of Hans Christian Andersen’s classic fairy tale, blending the original with movie hit Frozen.

A magic mirror, the bête noire of so many fairy tales, is the engine for misfortune. Greedy villagers make so many selfish demands on it, the mirror shatters, creating eternal winter. Village boy Kai heads out into the permanent blizzard in search of a missing friend to be followed by his chum Gerda, ending up at the Snow Queen’s palace.

Music has a big part to play and herein lies a problem due to its considerable volume. Director Andrew Panton’s Wall Of Sound has a detrimental effect, first creating a barrier between performance and audience, the latter straining to hear the lyrics. Moreover, the cast is asked to sing extremely loudly to be heard, which risks losing pitch.

The cast of nine give it their all, seeming much larger as they embody the host of characters peopling the journey from villagers to eccentrics Gerda encounters on her journey. They are beautifully dressed by designer Richard Evans in a modern take on storybook illustration.

Evans has come up with beautiful backdrops to convey the big freeze and summer which combine with lighting and video (Grant Anderson and Lewis den Hertog) to mesmerise the onlooker.

It’s a long, hard, loud journey and the quieter moments stand out, particularly Ewan Donald’s Crow who guides Gerda. He’s a smart-aleck American, skilfully using a puppet to complete his characterisation. Ann Louise Ross’s huffy penguin is also a delight, leavening the mixture with humour.

Runs at Dundee Rep until December 31.

Tags: theatre

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