The Snow Queen

First Written for The Reviews Hub

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Writer: Ian Toner

Director: Sarah Finlay

Gerda and Kay live in a watery town in a watery world. All ice and snow have been lost in the warming. Now people travel by gondolas and school children are told tales by their teachers about how in the past awful thing happened such as cold, gloves, scarves, carols and most frightening of all Christmas. In this watery world, there seems to be no one who remembers Christmas or all that it stood for. When the adventurous Kay questions his surroundings he is pulled into the ice world of the long banished, forgotten snow queen. Join his best friend Gerda on her epic adventure to find Kay and bring back Christmas.

Ian Toner’s The Snow Queen is inspired by the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale. This version, however, plays more with the idea of good and bad, suggesting that most people want to be good, but they are just often quite bad at it. This more nuanced approach works for today’s audience and creates ample room for humour. Above all this production is frequently laugh out loud funny. Furthermore, there is a new meaning beneath it all as Toner tackles the topic of climate change. Like all of the best stories, this message is there for those who seek it, or will slowly sink in to those who sit back and enjoy the laughs.

It is remarkable that the whole play is carried off by just six cast members (plus two blue parrots). Clodagh Mooney Duggan, who is in nearly every scene, is perfect for the role of Gerda, imbuing her with a mix of innocence and bravery. She makes for a wonderful companion through the dangers and excitement of the watery world and the ice queen’s lair. The pirates she encounters are one of the highlights. When we meet them the three buccaneers are considering giving up their life of high-seas adventure in favour of becoming landed gentry. Other characters such as Old Nick and Rudolpho, the Lighthouse Keeper, underwater creatures and killer whales all help Gerda on the way. By her side is her trustworthy yet slightly temperamental parrot Pollyanna, who turns out to provide bountiful laughs throughout. It is also a great display of incorporating puppetry into theatre.

The costumes have been excellently detailed and colour coordinated by set and costume designer Molly O’Cathain. The Snow Queen takes place in Smock Alley’s main stage, which, with its openness and multiple entrances and exits, works well. The cast has room to manoeuvre. On the floor are drawings of boats and sea creatures in white and blue. The stage is occupied by two raised platforms of differing heights. Deceptively simple it gives the cast ample opportunity to display motion and movement in narrative via the different levels of staging. On the wall at the back stars shine in the darkness. Lighting, music and sound all add to the multi-layered storytelling. On a side note, it is great to see a production take so much effort with their programme.

The Snow Queen is billed as a family show and while this is true it is definitely a must see for adults. It is entertaining, intelligent, with a strong moral underlying the action, before it finally ending on a warm note. Toner has done very well to create a wonderful show that can be enjoyed by all. There seems to be much more to come from this very talented troupe.  This is a fully formed, excellently written, produced, created and acted play that hopefully all of Dublin will go to see.

The Reviews Hub Score: 5*

Key Word: Captivating