The Snow Queen

Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, Glasgow

Keith Bruce

four stars

IN what is perhaps more of a shift in the established traditions of the city at this time of year than anyone at the Conservatoire appreciated, the drama students have this year gone down the road of a Stuart Paterson-scripted family show rather than a variety theatre pantomime. That may account for the remarkable number of unfilled seats on opening night in what has previously been an over-subscribed short run.

Panto-lovers should not be put off. Paterson is astute enough to include a bit of children-pleasing vulgarity in his storytelling, and ample opportunity to boo the villains. And the well-road-tested script for The Snow Queen is one of his very best, attention-grabbing from the first exhortation from Bhima, the sun spirit (Iola Evans) that we "must not be frightened" to the final defeat of the imperious Queen, a fine performance by Luke O'Doherty. If he is channelling Tilda Swinton at times, the diminutive Alyssa Wininger's Gerda owes a lot to Garland's Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz. There are also Game of Thrones references to note, and the two polar bear guards at the Ice Palace have the costumes of the night: Star Wars Stormtroopers on the outside, cuddly teddies underneath.

The set-makers have also done wonders with Grandma's house and the Robber Woman's wagon, and doubtless the stage-management of all this will get slicker as the run goes on, while the best trick from that department (which I shan't give away) comes at the start of the interval. Best performance prize goes to Oystein Schiefloe Kanestrom, doubling as King Grin and Gerda's protective Reindeer, and excellent as both.