Review: The Snow Queen, Wales Millennium Centre

The Snow Queen, Thursday 1st December, Weston Studio at Wales Millennium Centre. Reviewer: Hannah Hopkins. 

Photography: Jonathan Dunn

Last night was the opening night of Hijinx Odyssey’s The Snow Queen, directed by Jon Dafydd-Kidd. Hijinx Odyssey is an inclusive community group for adults, brought together by their passion for performing, as well as the amateur arm of the Welsh theatre company, Hijinx. This was a new adaption by Llinos Mai of Hans Christian Andersen’s classic tale, featuring a vibrant cast of disabled and non-disabled performers from Odyssey, pupils from Woodlands High School and featuring beautiful, original music.

Based around the story of a circus, which arrives out of nowhere under the grip of the feared Snow Queen, two friends – Kai (Sean Williams) and Gerda (Sara Pickard) – are thrown into an icy adventure. With a blend of circus-esque characters, such as the Strong Woman and a Ventriloquist, and surreal characters – such as a Crow – the show was entirely engaging and I couldn’t wait to see what would happen next! Cleverly, the introduction of each new character was signalled by the revealing of an arrow on a signpost.

The staging was fantastic and together with excellent props, the world of The Snow Queen really did come to life. The set was completely used to the group’s full advantage, especially in the opening moments, when the audience are introduced to the Snow Queen. She makes her entrance on stage in the midst of a group of her moving ‘statues,’ complete with delightfully eerie music and great props and costumes.  It truly seemed like everything had been thought of visually, which really added to the performance as a whole. The combination of dialogue and visuals was really well done and the play captured my imagination entirely.

Commendation must go to those who thought up the idea of the Crow (Amalia Banteli), who delivered all of her lines on stilts and the illusion of wings helped by the use of flags, was incredibly clever. However, all performers were truly great and brought their own personalities to the role, that it is hard to really make any further comments as all roles were performed so well. Sara Pickard and Sean Williams as Gerda and Kai were excellent protagonists, who effectively conveyed the story to the audience. Performers were of all ages, which was also reflected in the audience. At times, it might have been felt that the combination of music and staging was a bit too spooky, especially for younger children during the aforementioned introduction of the Snow Queen, but for me, this only added to the magic of the production. As a short production (around an hour), there was so much packed in to it, but it didn’t feel like anything had been compromised.

For an amateur theatre company, this was a beautifully written and staged production and I feel like I stumbled across something truly brilliant. The lines were witty and heart-felt and the production was well-put together. I could see how much the actors enjoyed, and were passionate about their performance – it was completely heart-warming and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I’m sure the audience also came away with a delightful sentiment – that anything is possible if you put your mind to it.

by Hannah Hopkins