Wednesday, 2 December 2009

The Snow Queen - Unity Theatre, Liverpool

The Snow Queen
Writer: Mike Kenny
Director/Composer: Patrick Dineen
Reviewer: Katherine Lunney

The Unity Theatre has a 21year history of family shows at Christmas, putting a contemporary slant onto traditional tales, from The Emperor’s New Clothes to Pinocchio. This year the director/composer, Patrick Dineen, has collaborated with children’s playwright Mike Kenny and Liverpool-based theatre company Ullaloom to create a piece of theatre which is “visually arresting and filled with magical music and song” (according to the Unity website.)

I will agree with the promotional flyer that the set is visually pleasing and they have created a set which adapts to the different settings of Gerda’s journey to find Kai at the Snow Queen’s palace. The company’s use of crooked doors, an upper level platform with shadow projection, a large white sheet to represent snowstorms, and miniature lit houses are very effective at conjuring up different environments and create a great sense of movement across a relatively small space. Aside from that it is hard to find much else to compliment this production of the Snow Queen.

This production has placed a great emphasis upon its use of music and dance, and decided to focus upon the people that Gerda meets upon her search for the Snow Queen’s palace. This production choice does create the comic moments in the production with the colourful characters of the hungry polar bear, the travelling group of performers and eternally partying couple, however it does overshadow the relationship between Kai and Gerda (played by Jamie Stuart and Lauren Silver.)

My main complaint with this production is that it didn’t really know what it is; pantomime or play with songs? It used elements of the traditional pantomime, i.e. sing-a-long and audience participation, yet all of these felt half-hearted, as if any shout of ‘he’s behind you’ would have been immediately shushed as inappropriate for this Christmas play with songs. The music itself wasn’t memorable and didn’t serve to advance the plot, and the funny moments appeared to raise laughter only from the friends of the actors sat near myself who found the Russian costumes/dancing/accents hilarious.

However, I fully admit that I am not the target audience of this family production. So I went and chatted to the Liverpool Boys Brigade who told me that they loved it. Nearly all of them would give it 2 thumbs up, except Joshua Lathan - who was pulled out to dance on stage with the polar bear – who said he would give it “infinity plus one thumbs up”. Their favourite character was Kai, “ because he’s sound” with a couple liking the polar bear best. Surprisingly none of them said they were scared of the Snow Queen, although this may have been male bravado! So, the kids loved it, and you can’t ignore that – so maybe just ignore my ramblings for a higher standard of Christmas show.

Photos: Matt Ford
Runs until Sat 23rd Jan
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