Be careful what you wish for. You might end up in a splintered society where it’s always the bleakest of mid-winters with no obvious way out. Or at least that’s the case in Scott Gilmour and Claire McKenzie’s musical reimagining of Hans Christian Andersen’s frosty tale in which a once happy land is smashed into pieces by greed. A couple of generations on, children are disappearing and rumours are rife of a predatory monarch whisking them away to her lair. Gerda and Kai are making the best of things indoors as they play sword and sorcery type adventure games in the safety of Gerda’s granny’s house. When temptation gets the better of Kai, his disappearance leads Gerda on an adventure of her own which takes them to the sunny side, where things aren’t quite what they seem.
There’s an intoxicating sense of oomph to Andrew Panton’s dazzling production of a piece co-commissioned by Dundee Rep and the Citizens Theatre Glasgow, and presented here in association with Gilmour and McKenzie’s Noisemaker company. This isn’t just about the show’s set of vibrant performances led by Chiara Sparkes as Gerda and Ross Baxter as Kai. It comes too from Gilmour and McKenzie’s songs that drive the show, a mash-up of Celtic-tinged indie-pop show-tunes and rich chorales that seem to come from somewhere between Eurovision and the fjords. Richard Evans’ expansive design is an equally Scandic affair, and Lewis Den Hertog’s widescreen video projections channel comic book style versions that relate to the sort of games Gerda and Kai might play.
There is fun to be had from David Delve’s pukka knight Sir Jeffery and a wise-cracking puppet crow created by Tortoise in a Nutshell is brought to life with relish by Ewan Donald, while Sophie Reid’s Snow Queen looks and sounds like she’s just stepped out of a girl band wonderland. As the cold spell thaws and old order is restored, it becomes clear this is as much the Snow Queen’s rites of passage as much as Gerda’s in a musical winter warmer designed to melt hearts and minds.
The Herald, December 10th 2018