The Snow Queen

Nov 25 2022 | By More

★★★★☆     Beautifully wintry

Festival Theatre: Nov 19 – Dec 10
Review by Hugh Simpson

The traditional Scottish Ballet festive slot may have shifted forward a little due to the King’s pantomime moving across town, but the return of The Snow Queen still manages to provide the appropriate Christmas glitter.

The production with choreography by Christopher Hampson, first seen in 2019, draws on a much-adapted source. Some of the changes to Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale make it much easier to follow; others seem designed to appeal to those who are familiar with more modern versions of the story – in particular, the addition of the Snow Queen’s sister the Summer Princess.

Principals Constance Devernay-Laurence and Jerome Barnes in The Snow Queen. Pic: Andy Ross

This does mean that (particularly during the scenes set in the Snow Queen’s icy palace) you half-expect to hear Let It Go in among the selections from Rimsky-Korsakov which comprise the music.

Being abandoned by her sister may be a reason for the Snow Queen’s behaviour, but it adds little. Similarly, the central original story – the search by young Gerda for her beloved Kai, kept prisoner by the Queen – is less prominent, and is diminished slightly by making the characters adults.

I can’t be the only one who, as a child, found the story’s central idea about shards of troll-mirror that pierce your heart or eye, rendering you immune to any joy or beauty, utterly terrifying. A man apparently leaving his more sensibly-dressed fiancee for a platinum blonde in a sparkly dress would not have been quite so frightening.

clear and expressive voice

Problems with the story aside, there is very little wrong with the production. Lez Brotherston’s sets are suitably imposing, particularly the jagged edges of ice and bare trees of the ice palace. Paul Pyant’s lighting is notably successful, while the orchestra, conducted by Jean-Claude Picard, give clear and expressive voice to Richard Honner’s arrangements of the various Rimsky-Korsakov pieces.

All of this does tremendous service to the dancing, which is of a remarkably high standard. Jerome Anthony Barnes is wonderfully lyrical as Kai, whether in his playfully tender duets with Roseanna Leney’s Gerda or the more sinuously flowing pas de deux with Constance Devernay-Laurence’s Snow Queen.

Evan Loudon as Strong man and Claire Souet as Ballerina in The Snow Queen. Pic: Andy Ross

Devernay-Laurence is wonderfully commanding, evoking both a powerful, chilly hauteur and a wounded passion, while Leney’s quest is effectively depicted as a path from tentativeness to steel. A similar subtlety can be found in Alice Kawalek, both as the Summer Princess and the character’s alter-ego Lexi the pickpocket.

Hampson’s choreography is fluid and attractive, with a rhythmic flow to the dances that is sustained throughout the piece. There is a noticeable degree of togetherness in the company that is always in the service of the storytelling. The ensemble pieces never outstay their welcome, and are cleverly varied, with the depiction of snowflakes and Jack Frosts particularly striking.

Even a scene in a Travellers’ camp provides colour without stooping to exoticism or ‘othering’, carrying on with the sensitive rewriting that was in evidence in the recent Nutcracker. This scene also makes good use of Gillian Rissi’s keening solo violin.


Rimbaud Patron’s Ringmaster is commanding, while Grace Horler’s fortune-teller has a similar authority. The other circus performers also provide telling cameos, notably Ben Thomas’s Strong Man and the clowns of James Garrington and Aaron Venegas.

Throughout, there is also the ominous presence of Thomas Edwards and Yuri Marques as the Snow Queen’s wolf servants, who remain potent even if their costumes look as woolly as the unfortunate Christmas jumper Kai sports on his first appearance.

The standard of the dancing more than overcomes any infelicities in the redrawn storyline. Perhaps some elements are lacking in emotional depth, and the ending is slightly fudged, but for athleticism, beauty and sheer joy this scores very highly.

Running time: One hour and 50 minutes (including one interval)
Festival Theatre, 13/29 Nicolson Street EH8 9FT.
Sat 19 Nov – Sat 10 Dec 2022
Tue 6, Wed – Sat: 7.30pm,  Fri-Sun: 2.30pm.
Tickets and details: Book here.

Glasgow Theatre Royal, 282 Hope Street, Glasgow G2 3QA
Wed 14 Dec 2022 – Sun 8 Jan 2023
Tue 20, Wed – Sun (not 24, 31): 7.30pm,  Thurs – Sat, Sun 18: 2.30pm.
Tickets and detaikls: Book here.

Principal Constance Devernay-Laurence in The Snow Queen. Pic: Andy Ross


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