ONCE in a blue moon you get invited to review a Christmas show that turns out to be absolutely perfect in every possible way – colourful, inventive, packed with subtly non-worthy messages, fun, music, laughter, love, excitement, wit and passion, and equally delicious for all ages. That is what New International Encounter, Tobacco Factory Theatres and Cambridge Junction have devised for the seasonal 2022- 2023 show, on until 15th January in Bedminster.
A company of six performs the story of the Snow Queen, that icy temptress from the north who inveigles the newly-grumpy teenager Kai away from his home in Copenhagen and his best friend Gerda. It’s certainly not a new story for a Christmas adapation, but this alchemical retelling manages to combine hope and horrors, love and laughter with extraordinary skill. All six are brilliant multi-instrumentalists, dancers, circus performers, singers and truly poignant actors, creating unforgettable characters into whose lives the audience is immediately drawn.
It’s all about what it is to be human, to be part of a family and a community, how to work with the seasons, how to forgive, how to open your mind and your heart. All sounds a bit soppy? Not a bit of it. You will laugh and sing and clap your hands and cheer and gasp and cry.
The tall and handsome Abayomi Onoyide is the narrator, Joey Hickman not only composed and directed the (terrific) music but plays Kai, Natisha Williams is the spirited Gerda, Samantha Sutherland is the cloyingly sweet flower lady, Alex Murdoch a deeply peculiar Robber Princess and Stefanie Mueller chills in the title role.
All of them play multiple additional roles in the telling of this endlessly relevant story, unfazed by the requirements for flight, feathers or antlers. Director Alex Byrne and the production team have turned out a mesmerising show that does its very best to be totally inclusive without preaching, nodding to so many current tropes with humorous humanity.
I can’t wait to see it again.