The Snow Queen

Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh

Four Stars

Winter is coming in Morna Young’s brand new take on Hans Christian Anderson’s evergreen folk tale, brought home here to a frosty Victorian Edinburgh in Cora Bissett’s musical production, with Young’s script steeped in Scotland’s fantastical mythology.

Things open quietly, with Wendy Seager’s Seer setting out the show’s store by way of oral storytelling and projected shadowplay. Meanwhile, in the city, young Gerda and her best pal Kei tend to their roof garden as they wait for a solitary rose to bloom. As they bond over the loss of their respective parents, they can barely imagine the adventure they’re about to embark on after Claire Dargo’s Snow Queen kidnaps Kei.

Befriended by Samuel Pashby’s keytar wielding crow Corbie, Gerda is whisked off on a grand tour that takes in a talking fairy garden in Perth, a gang of Highland robbers whose market for overpriced tartan tat has gone bust, a pantomime unicorn, and a wise old king at sea. Even the Northern Lights are on Gerda’s side.

This is played out with gusto on Emily James’ busy set, with Rosie Graham as Gerda and Sebastian Lim-Seet as Kei leading the cast with heart and soul enough to match the material. Jack Webb’s movement direction sees the cast of characters not necessarily of this earth throw assorted shapes, with Dargo’s Snow Queen striking various dramatic poses.

Finn Anderson’s rousing songs are sung and played live by all of Bissett’s eleven strong cast in a way designed to inspire Gerda on her quest in what amounts to a rites of passage girl’s own story. When Gerda wins her battle with the Snow Queen, she has not only preserved old myths, but has created a new one, with spring on its way at last and a life of adventure ahead.