Scottish Ballet’s The Snow Queen at The Festival Theatre Edinburgh (Sat 07 to Sun 29 Dec) takes one of Hans Christian Andersen’s best loved stories and gives it a new and very visual interpretation to add yet another Christmas/Winter classic to their repertoire.
This version of “The Snow Queen”, choreographed by Christopher Hampson and with impressive designs from the award-winning Lez Brotherston opens with a very cinematic and visually stunning scene of our two sisters, The Snow Queen (Constance Devernay) and The Summer Princess (Kayla-Maree Tarantolo) viewing the future through an enchanted mirror. What does this future foretell though, and how does it involve two young, star-struck lovers, Kai (Andrew Peasgood) and Gerda (Bethany Kingsley-Garner) in the nearby town? The answer to that question is the story of The Snow Queen as jealousy, misguided love, revenge, true love and self-sacrifice all play out against a backdrop of winter markets, a travelling circus, a gypsy encampment, enchanted snowscapes, fairy tale castles, and of course, mirrors.
There is never any doubt here as to who the visual star of this show is, and from the opening seconds here, Constance Devernay IS the Snow Queen. By the very nature of this story, we see a lot more of our Snow Queen in Act 2 than Act 1, but whenever Constance is on stage, it is a rightfully “ice-cool” performance, and one that probably every little girl in the audience wants to be tomorrow as dance classes are added to their Christmas wish list.
From the moment that we move into a wonderfully detailed town marketplace with attention paid to not only every costume, but every small detail, it is obvious that the design team have taken great care on this production. From a dance point of view, beautifully choreographed central work is offset by smaller groups all working together to create a feeling of a timeless winter-land.
This is a story of two young lovers and Kai (Andrew Peasgood) and Gerda (Bethany Kingsley-Garner) are a good couple together on-stage both dramatically and as dancers, and both make you believe in that wonder of “young love”. Here in this story though, Bethany Kingsley-Garner is given a character that is just as central and important to this story as The Snow Queen and is given just as much on stage performance time (perhaps even more). Here we have a performance full of warmth and expressive dance and movements that brings this character to life, and will divide many aspiring ballerinas as to who they want to be like, Gerda or The Snow Queen.
There is a lot to like about this production, and as this is Scottish Ballet’s World Premiere of The Snow Queen I don’t want to give too much of this story away in this review, but the story here is so often in the small detail, and depending upon where you are sitting in the theatre, watch just how carefully lighting, shadows and reflections have been used in this very atmospheric production.
Review by Tom King