The Snow Queen (2023), Lyceum Theatre, Review

Rating (out of 5)
Claire Dargo as The Snow Queen, standing with her arms outstretched, reaching up to the sky. Black background with Snow Queen lit up in icy blue white.
Show details
Royal Lyceum Theatre Company
Hans Christian Andersen (original story); Morna Young (Writer); Cora Bisset (Director); Emily James (Designer); Orla O’Connor (Casting Director); Lizzie Powell (Lighting Designer); Finn Anderson (Composer); Shonagh Murray (Musical Director); Jack Webb (Movement Director); EmmaClaire Brightlyn (Fight Director); Niloo-Far Khan (Assistant Director); Laura Clark (Producer); Jess Shurte (Photography)
Claire Dargo (Beira/The Snow Queen); Rosie Graham (Gerda); Sebastian Lim-Seet (Kei); Richard Conlon (Hamish); Naomi Stirrat (Bride/Senga); Samuel Pashby (Corbie); Wendy Seagar (Granny May/The Seer); Antony Strachan (Grandpa Lyle); Yana Harris (Ensemble/Understudy); Kieran Andrew (Ensemble/ Understudy; Robin Campbell (Understudy)
Running time

Weaving the tradition of Scots storytelling in and around this new adaptation of The Snow Queen, writer Morna Young brings the richness of the Scots language to the fore. We follow the protagonist Gerda, a chirpy Rosie Graham, as she tracks down her friend Kei who has been kidnapped by the Snow Queen. While the unfolding of this journey does not always work – like Shakespeare, ears need to tune into words not commonly used in daily language and this takes time, so moments are lost – it is an interesting blend of Anderson’s Snow Queen and the Scots Beira, the Queen of Winter. 

The set design from Emily James, echoing the balcony design in the Lyceum, is a clever touch. It makes the piece feel immersive: the audience is then within the staging, sitting on the edge of the tale, listening in, just as we do when listening to a tale at bedtime. The change from balcony, to rooftop, to boat is also clever, making for smooth transitions between scenes.

This is an ensemble piece and the actor-musician cast work well together as they transition between their current worlds and the world of the Queen/Beira. Richard Conlon’s Hamish the Unicorn is a scene stealer of sparkliness. This is a tale about taking warmth from the heart and soul, and the impact this has on the individual. There are messages about what it means to never look up; the importance of believing in the light, and the strength of friendship: that to take away warmth in the human and the world itself, to never properly see what is around us, changes us and our world. 

Younger audience members may struggle with the length, although there were entertaining ad libs from a young audience member on the night of viewing. What might have strengthened the audience connection to this colder world was snow – in a world that talks a lot about snow and coldness, it is conspicuous in its absence, only appearing in small doses. Maybe however, the audience simply needs to look up…

Photo: Claire Dargo as The Snow Queen © Jess Shurte

Ticket Prices: £10-£130

Dates: 8-31 December (Wed-Sat 7pm except Wed 27 @ 6pm; Sun 10,17 @ 6pm matinees Sat 9,16,23,30 @ 2pm; Sun 10,17 @ 1pm; Sun 24,31 @ 2pm; Tues 26, Thurs 28, Fri 29 @ 2pm;  Access Performances: BSL Interpreted - Wed 13 December, 7pm; Relaxed - Fri 22 December, 7pm 

Accessible entry: The Snow Queen contains smoke and flashing lights. Age: 5+ (Guideline)