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the snow queen, dundee rep

When it comes to the alchemy of live theatre, a great cast can act like the mythical Philosopher's Stone, and turn the base metal of a rather mediocre script into a sparkling seasonal show that keeps young audiences entertained.

Well, more or less. Given that the Rep has staged Stuart Paterson's powerful take on the Snow Queen more than once, the desire for a change is understandable. But this version by the usually reliable Mike Kenny is a poor choice and, frankly, Jemima Levick's bland direction and minimal design (Lisa Sangster) do little to improve it.

There is nothing elemental, whatsoever, in having Emily Winter's Snow Queen trudge on in spring-loaded kangaroo boots, dressed like a modern-day skier. There is no indication why she kidnaps children. Or how she knows that Kay – pierced by discontent – is vulnerable. You might even have thought, with climate change a major concern, and one that is increasingly presented in schools, some reference to natural forces would come into play, but no.

So what do we get? A talented cast who sparkle valiantly against the odds. We get, in the utterly heartwarming Granny of Ann Louise Ross, a touching affirmation of family kinship and love, alongside a salute to storytelling as a primer for life. Ross, in her many "guardian guises" brings a caring humanity to proceedings, making Gerda's quest to rescue her friend (and Molly Vevers's efforts in the character) reach out to us.

Irene MacDougall is, as always, a stalwart who infuses the two-dimensional with quirky vitality, while John Buick's doleful Reindeer is kind enough not to whinge about being a prisoner on a drab set, in a lacklustre show.


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