The Snow Queen

Paisley Arts Centre

Mary Brennan

five stars

Would you believe it? The Snow Queen has installed her glittering Ice Palace just outside of... Bridge of Weir. Was it global warming that prompted her to flit? Well, it was getting melt-y under high-heeled foot but the real reason was young Percy Swanky - the Queen is convinced that the missing shard from her magic mirror is inside him. She will stop at nothing to retrieve it - so prepare, denizens of Renfrewshire, for all-engulfing blizzards, permafrost and an army of winged critters.

The energies behind this bright, inventive and uproariously funny family show originate with PACE. Their recipe for panto-tastic success hasn’t altered much in 32 years of Christmas hits: a small corp of professionals head up a cast of young PACE performers who sing, dance and act a treat. I saw Team Two - simply ace! There’s also lots of audience interaction and a cunning ‘origami’ set that unfolds into new locations on the Arts Centre’s pocket-hankie stage. This year, Andy McGregor has cooked up a witty, wily, script that acknowledges Hans Christian Andersen while nodding in the direction of the Wizard of Oz. Remember the Winged Monkeys in the Judy Garland film? Well this Snow Queen has Winged Rabbits - and they are a total hoot. ‘Hop-boing-boing-boing’ says their leader - and they bounce to it, all smartly in synch as they swoop down on unwitting Percy (Duncan Brown) or help to confuse his can-do sister, Persephone (Shannon Swan), and their mother Widow Swanky.

Chris Alexander’s Swanky is gloriously rooted in the tradition of garrulous, tackety-boots Dames, full of snash and readily bantering with the audience. Kara Swinney’s evil Snow Queen has bravura operatic tendencies while Sarah McCardie shape-shifts superbly across various roles, including a posh Prince who fancies himself irresistible - smart, independent-minded Persephone soon sets him right! Rollicking entertainment for all ages, it knocks spots off many big city pantos - well done, Paisley buddies.