Music and Lyrics: Howard Blake
Director: Bill Alexander
Reviewer: Scott Matthewman
Birmingham Repertory Theatre’s dance adaptation of Raymond Briggs’s classic children’s story, and the film adaptation which has become a Christmas television staple, has itself become something of a London Yuletide tradition, having been presented at the Peacock Theatre every year since 1997. And while there are moments where one can completely get lost in the magical tale of a boy and his snowman who comes to life, it is also starting to show its age.
Ruairi Murchison’s designs take Briggs’s original concepts and encase them in a giant snow globe effect, with the boy’s home front and centre. Cameron James Sutherland, who shares the role of the boy with two others, starts the show off to great effect, enjoying clomping around in the snow in Robert North’s evocative choreography.
Frustratingly, it is when the Snowman appears on the scene that Act I starts to struggle. Set scenes of the boy and Snowman exploring the house while his parents sleep use the whole stage, meaning that the impressive house of the opening scene is not seen again. Instead, we have a series of set sequences separated by periods of total blackout. The young children around me were starting to lose interest until the action moved out of the house, as the Snowman and the boy embark on a motorbike journey through a winter wonderland.
The ensemble’s portrayals of woodland creatures trying to avoid becoming roadkill shows off some of the show’s better costume designs, and a more spritely choreography than a clumping Snowman suit can muster. And all the while, everyone is waiting for the Snowman and the boy to start flying. And granted, the transition to flight is well executed, although once the couple are in the air the interest palls quickly.
The fun level perks up substantially as the pair land in the middle of a party hosted by Father Christmas for a variety of other Snowmen from around the world. While there is a suspect level of racial stereotyping at play, this is the closest The Snowman comes to being a true dance experience – while a subplot involving an ice princess and an evil Jack Frost seems to exist solely to pad out the show’s scant plot, the presence of a baddie to boo and hiss does at least re-engage the youngest audience members.
There is no sign that The Snowman will ever stop being a part of London’s traditional Christmas landscape. And however tired it may be to these middle-aged eyes, one can only hope that it sets a new generation of youngster off on a path exploring the wonders of dance.
Continues until 6 January 2019 | Image: Tristram Kenton