As the cold winds of winter weave through Edinburgh and rumours of snow are abound, the Lyceums Theatre’s Christmas offering seems perfectly timed: A reimagining of Hans Christian Andersen’s tale ‘The Snow Queen,’ emerges from the creative depths of Morna Young’s imagination. Set against the backdrop of a frost-laden Victorian Edinburgh, director Cora Bissett takes us on a celebration of folklore and Scots tongue – through humour, music, and good old-fashioned storytelling. In this wintry embrace, Andersen’s familiar narrative finds new life, promising audiences an enchanting journey into a world where myth and reality converge. This enchanting production receives an unequivocal five-star accolade from us – and we’d gladly argue with anyone who would give it anything less!
The performance begins with a captivating blend of storytelling and shadow projection with Wendy Seager’s Seer, exciting the imagination and setting the stage for an exploration of friendship and loss between the characters of Gerda and Kei, portrayed with utter conviction by Rosie Graham and Sebastian Lim-Seet.
The visual allure of the production, orchestrated by Emily James’ intricate set design, seamlessly transitions between the familiar landmarks of Edinburgh and fantastical realms. We loved the incorporation of books into the set – reminding us that this wasn’t reality – but rather story of escapism and therefore absolutely able to include the sublimely ridiculous. I particularly appreciated the chance to escape – there were no political agendas or current affairs – and it gave the chance to just enjoy magic.
Although Claire Dargo’s Snow Queen was undeniably formidable, nothing was ‘too’ scary for a younger audience – and whilst elements of the story could be seen as dark (such as a fairy garden which exists to lure travellers to their deaths) even this was cause for hilarity as the cast found just the right balance of humour to menace.
Finn Anderson’s evocative songs, performed live by the talented ensemble, serve as a narrative catalyst, propelling Gerda’s transformative journey forward. I was only sorry that it’s not available on Spotify for us to relive the show! Whilst I am not a fan of pantomime, this show drew you into the story in a similar way – the story telling was so engaging, I felt as if I had stepped into the pages of the story and was able to spend those hours in a magical helm too.
I received a lot of questions on Instagram about whether this would be too scary for smaller children – and in answer I would say, I know that in preview a young toddler was scared on the start and of some of the Snow Queen’s antics. But many children attended the press night (who looked around the age of 4) and they definitely looked like they were enjoying themselves. The comic performance of Samuel Pashby’s ‘Corby’ also helped to limit the scary – as although there was a complexity to his character – his physical performance was hilarious. There is innuendo in the show (thanks to Hamish the unicorn) but this obviously was way over the heads of the kids – who were still laughing raucously at his performance. My daughter (aged 11) didn’t feel it was ‘too baby’ for her, and I (30-something) didn’t feel as if it was ‘too childish’ for me. In short – a really family-friendly production.
In summary, ‘The Snow Queen’ at Edinburgh’s Lyceum Theatre stands as a testament to inventive storytelling, meticulous production, and captivating performances. I am seriously considering whether I find the time to go see it again – it lifted my mood no end and was the perfect antidote to the cold winter’s night. It was ultimately a tale of hope, but a reminder that Winter is also a necessary time. It is ok to slow down, to rest, to restore, and to appreciate everything we have.
We attended the press night – but were under no obligation to review and these thoughts are all our own – images are all credited to Jess Shurte with thanks. Find tickets available here.