Certain classic children’s stories automatically make one think of winter or Christmas – John Masefield’s The Box of Delights, Oscar Wilde’s The Happy Prince, and Hans Christian Anderson’s The Little Match Girl to name but a few. Using another classic Hans Christian Anderson fairy tale as a jumping off point, Theatre N16’s version of The Snow Queen – which is adapted and directed by Tatty Hennessy with co-direction by Scott Ellis – follows the familiar route of Greta making a northbound trek to try and find her missing brother Kay.
In this incarnation of the time-honoured tale, Greta (Jessica Arden) is accompanied by her puppet companion Crow (operated by James Tobin) who agrees to take her to the Snow Queen's palace in exchange for shiny 'treasure'.
Asides from playing the narrator, Jessica Strawson plays an assortment of other characters with verve. Arden captures the childlike energy and demeanour of Greta, while Tobin’s Crow keeps the puns and jokes coming thick and fast, some of the best I've heard in any Christmas show.
Keeping to a modest budget, the production makes use of this to its advantage, highlighting the use of imagination with everyday objects, though perhaps this could have been utilised more extensively. The use of lighting for the Snow Queen's palace and the sky lends the production a magical quality when least expected, to the delight of children and adults alike.
In most children's shows, there is often a moral or message to underpin the story. While there is one for this show too involving a broken 'magic mirror', it isn't didactic – its subtlety and insight having an astuteness that will appeal to adults.
As for the play's suitability for children, the show is ideal for those in primary school, though under-5s will enjoy it too.
© Michael Davis 2016
The Snow Queen runs at Theatre N16 until 22nd December 2016.