Dance and Theatre

The Snow Queen

Festival Theatre, Edinburgh

Four stars

Until December 29;

Then touring until February 15


Tramway, Glasgow

Four stars

Until January 4


Cumbernauld Theatre

Four stars

Until December 24


Hans Christian Andersen’s tale of The Snow Queen is a deeply evocative choice for Scottish Ballet’s winter show. Combined with the dramatic, romantic, playfully Orientalist music of Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov and a vibrant, new choreography by Christopher Hampson, it makes for a truly scintillating dance work.

Hampson’s version of the famous story has no place for wicked trolls who inadvertently smash the Snow Queen’s malevolent mirror. In this smart, emotive adaptation, the Snow Queen shatters the evil looking glass when her sister, the Summer Princess, abandons her in search of love in the human world.

Under a railway bridge, in a mid-20th-century urban landscape (one of a series of brilliant set designs by Lez Brotherston), the Snow Queen steals young Kai from his besotted lover Gerda. Cue the unlikely partnership of the upright Gerda and the knife-wielding pickpocket Lexi (the Summer Princess’s alter-ego in the corporeal world). The pair’s adventures take us from a visually spectacular circus scene, to the gorgeously vivid camp of itinerant outlaws and, finally, the Snow Queen’s frozen lair (complete with sinisterly masked Jackfrosts).

Hampson’s impressive choreography ranges from the plaintive, to the dynamic and the pleasingly comic. Nowhere is this more pronounced than in the glorious scene at the beginning of Act Two, in which the romantically colourful outlaws dance to Rimsky-Korsakov’s marvellously expressive Capriccio Espagnol.

Constance Devernay (who dances the title role with splendid grace and authority) shines in a generally exceptional company. Kayla-Maree Tarantolo is deliciously effervescent as Lexi, with Bethany Kingsley-Garner and Andrew Peasgood excelling as Gerda and Kai, respectively.

Closing with a powerfully tense pas de deux for the Snow Queen and Kai and a sincerely redemptive duet for Gerda and her beloved, this is a memorably stylish festive ballet.

There’s no shortage of style in Pinocchio, the Citizens Theatre Company’s lovely Christmas show at Glasgow’s Tramway arts venue. Staged by the Citz’s acclaimed artistic director Dominic Hill, this new version of Carlo Collodi’s much-loved story (by Robert Alan Evans and Lu Kemp) is a thing of beauty.

The piece is played out on designer Rachael Canning’s splendid, meta-theatrical stage-within-a-stage. With its old-style footlights and its lovely, seemingly time-worm proscenium arch, it looks like the kind of auditorium you would find in many a little town in Collodi’s native Tuscany.

The characters themselves, from Gary Lilburn’s touchingly wistful, old puppet maker Geppetto to the scoundrel duo of Fox (Andy Clark) and Cat (Stephanie Payne), are costumed with a delightful attention to expressive detail. Pinocchio himself (complete with extendable schnozzle) is represented by way of a beautiful, little puppet which (thanks to fine manipulation and voicing by Liam King) quickly takes on the characteristics of the boy that the puppet so ardently wishes to become.

As the intrepid Pinocchio makes his way in the world, pursued by Irene Allan’s splendidly wicked puppet master Florenzina, he is watched over by his constant friend Cricket (Helen Katamba). There’s little the loyal insect can do, however, to prevent Pinocchio and Geppetto being gulled by the Cockney geezers, Fox and the Cat; Pinocchio out of his money, Geppetto out to sea and, ultimately, both of them into the belly of a whale.

Particular praise is due to the scene in which the stage is transformed into the sea by means of amazingly ingenious stage lighting (by Lizzie Powell) and some truly brilliant marine puppets.

As so often in Hill’s productions, the action is enhanced by superb, evocative music and sound (by composer Nikola Kodjabashia) which is performed live by the actors themselves. The acting is top notch across the board in what is a sumptuous, marvellously theatrical production.

There are delights on a more modest scale in director/designer Ed Robson’s Cinderella at Cumbernauld Theatre. The production is the last ever show at the charming little playhouse, which closes its doors for the final time on Christmas Eve, ahead of the opening of North Lanarkshire’s new arts venue in 2020.

The piece is presented as a play-within-a-play, in which the tale of poor Cinders is recreated by a forest-dwelling wizard (the hilarious and mercurial Tim Licata) and his friends. It is, by tremendous turns, an entertainingly traditional and humorously modern show.

Fabulous, medieval costumes clash delightfully with the drag act campery of the nasty stepsisters Helga (Dylan Bore) and Holga (Nicky Elliot). There’s a similar, very funny incongruity when Licata’s King begins a grand speech with the words: “M’ladies, m’gentlemen, m’non-binaries” (a joke that was, no doubt, lost on the Kilsyth Academy pupil who, upon walking into the theatre’s facilities and seeing my shoulder-length hair, asked nervously, “is this the men’s toilets?”).

Danielle Glover’s Cinderella is nicely balanced between conventional, trusting naivety and a more modern self-assertion. The ever-excellent Esme Bayley is boo-inducingly brilliant as the seductive witch Mandragora.

With fine music by Philip Curran and nicely wrought moments of audience participation, Robson has created the perfect Christmas show with which to end Cumbernauld Theatre’s illustrious history.

For tour dates for The Snow Queen, visit: