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What's On, Culture, Theatre

Review:

The Snow Queen

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richardbudd.co.uk © 2019

I last saw Creation Theatre take to the North Wall stage a couple of years ago for A Christmas Carol. Their current offering at the same venue isn’t quite so easy to follow as the Dickens adaptation, and the message not as clear. However, once again a strong Creation cast move us swiftly through 120 minutes of adventure, tunes and fun – with a small number of actors multi-roling excellently in their presentation of memorable eccentrics.

The opening scene introduces us to Gerda (Annabelle Terry) and Kai (Bart Lambert), best friends who view the world differently to each other. Neighbours, we see their properties are separated by a rose garden, cue the company’s rousing rendition of Lynn Anderson’s ‘Rose Garden’. It being such a catchy song, it’s pleasing to hear it repeated during the show (and not in a way that renders it tiresome).

One such repeat takes place during Gerda’s quest to rescue Kai from the Snow Queen’s (Natasha Rickman) palace, part of which she carries out in a Ferrari. The car depiction comes courtesy of the children in the cast, who don reflective lights on their backs and carry out some pretty engaging choreography with Gerda in the driving seat. We also witness the vehicle in smaller form, with James Burton – also sufficiently creepy as the wizard and childish as the prince – directing a remote controlled version for a few circuits of the performance space.

Annabelle Terry gave fine comedic performances in A Christmas Carol and in Creation’s summer 2019 production of The Tempest, and on that front she delivers again. Her funniest moment arrives when she goes off on one singing about her favourite peanut butter chocolate snack during an otherwise rather poignant song.

Often the show’s humorous bits are when the cast come out of character to discuss how to move the tale along, namely the group discussion that follows Natasha Rickman’s first attempt at a crow’s voice – “Well, I don’t want to do it now,” she says, before having a crack at it in a higher register that seems to satisfy her fellow performers.

Her crow is paired with that of the versatile Bart Lambert, lines bouncing nicely between them as part of a bizarrely endearing double-act. Veronica Beatrice Lewis also shows great adaptability, taking on roles including Gerda’s wise and charismatic grandmother and a timid hedgehog (for which the costume is a delightfully simple backpack with some spikes on it).

While the fight between Gerta and the Snow Queen is a little busy to decipher exactly what goes down between them, this is another visually enticing, funny and frequently dark Creation production. Gareth Jones’ tight musical direction underscores a story about how people can change, how goodness is subjective, and how we can’t expect everything to be perfect.

The Snow Queen is at the North Wall, Oxford until 5 January.

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