Adaptor and Director: Natasha Rickman
From the laboratory of myths, fairy tales and storytelling – stories are collected, studied, and shared across the world from one realm to another. You see, Holly tells stories. They are brought to her door where she then undertakes the vitally significant role in sharing them with the world. What happens though, when a story is so cold to the touch, that Holly struggles to pry open the pages and share it with the world? Well, boys and girls, this is precisely where you can step in.
Overreliance is the principal issue with Iris Theatre’s The Snow Queen. A severe overreliance in computer-generated effects, backgrounds, and transitions. Attempting to infuse a digital presence for fairy-tales is a shaky dynamic, and in this case, strips back on the potential charm the production could have built. The stock backgrounds, some of which feel drastically unconnected, and randomly inserted noises, dodgy effects and technical glitches break immersion. Where The Snow Queen vastly saves itself (somewhat) is with the wistfully pleasant presence of storyteller and singular performer Leda Douglas.
Praise be handed to Douglas, performing the production herself, relying on pre-filmed segments to offer breathing room as she alters into new characters or interacts with the audience. Charming, palatable and with bundles of energy, Douglas is doing the work of seven – and, regardless of the production’s shortcomings, is a deserving star in every right. However, Natasha Rickman’s adaptation and Matt Eston’s lyrics cause problems. The repetitious song to summon characters from their stories, a theoretically decent concept, is drawn out and never changes. Bordering on dull, the rhythmic actions of repetition may encourage recall but is overplayed to the extent that a minor mix-up could have greatly aided with a consistent melody remaining to strike familiarity.
Transitionally, The Snow Queen is remarkably choppy – and in the days of Zoom, we’ve grown accustomed to this, but Iris Theatre’s production is a step backwards. The decision to use avatar technology to separate characters is an entirely vapid choice which, while understandable for budgetary and time-saving reasons, deconstructs the integral notion of storytelling. Side-characters are acceptable, though are rather irksome for the older audience members. Colourful, cheesy but lifeless, there’s little threat or even presence thanks to the stripped-back creations.
This is a major upset, given the evident care and intentions of Rickman and Douglas to tell a story and entertain children during a difficult period. The narrative adaptation works for younger audiences, and even in moments entertains the larger tots thanks to Douglas’ bouncing personality, but too much works against the production for it to be anything other than a time-eater. It will swallow up their afternoon, provide some clean entertainment but won’t stretch past dinnertime and will likely fade from memory.
For the smallest of snowflakes, Iris Theatre frames The Snow Queen but by the journey’s end, however, it’s a struggle to determine what younger audiences have learned or indeed will retain. They will nevertheless still be entertained for the hour and may potentially develop an interest in the original story, and storytelling in general – always a worthwhile goal.
Runs here until 26 December 2020