Esme Violet Anderson shares her thoughts on Scottish Ballet’s ‘The Snow Queen’ at Edinburgh’s Festival Theatre…
As I sat down and read my programme, I was unsure what to expect from Scottish Ballet’s ‘The Snow Queen’. I have seen many adaptations over the years but have never been sure what to make of the story. I am also a massive fan of the Christmas classic ‘The Nutcracker’. A different festive ballet had a lot to live up to.
However, I was proven wrong, as I was absolutely blown away by this performance’s storytelling, movement, and staging. The dancers were exceptional actors and could portray all their emotions and characters amazingly, which is often uncommon with dancers. I honestly believed principal dancers Roseanna Leney (Gerda) and Jerome Barnes (Kai) characters were deeply in love. The Snow Queen, casting a trance over Kai, was also an excellent piece of acting. It was hard to believe that principal dancer Constance Devernay-Laurence did not really have Barnes under her spell.
The ballet is an adaptation of the Hans Christian Andersen story of the same name. However, Christopher Hampson, Scottish Ballet’s CEO/Artistic Director and Choreographer, wanted to develop the story and give The Snow Queen a back story and a reason for her evilness. He explored the relationship between the Snow Queen and her sister Lexi, the summer princess. The sisters are torn apart by love and Lexi’s dreams of escaping the ice palace they inhabit. Some parts of this are reminiscent of Disney’s Frozen movies, also based on the same story. I am sure this helped to keep younger audiences engaged.
The first act was my favourite, and the highlight had to be the introduction of all the Circus acts. Strong man Ben Thomas and ballet dancer Kayla-Maree Tarantolo created a performance through their powerful yet amusing pas des deux. Clowns James Garrington and Aaron Venegas also helped entertain the audience, and I heard lots of giggles from people around me.
Although the second act was great, it did not keep me engaged as much. The story ended abruptly, and I would have liked to have seen what happened to Gerda and Kai once they found their way back to one another. Saying that, one of my favourite dances from the ballet was the Snowflakes and Jack Frost’s performance by the company artists. It was the only dance in the performance where all female dancers were on pointe. Watching dancers together on pointe is one of my favourite parts about ballet. It is always just so impressive to watch, and it is crazy to think what the human body can do. The elegant, strong movements of the snowflakes created a magical, icy feeling. It almost felt as if the theatre got colder itself. The most amazing part of this dance Jack Frost’s costume design, created by Lez Brotherson OBE, the designer for the whole show. The masks of the Jack Frost were terrifying, despite the glitter, and I would be frightened to be up close to them. I reckon they would fit well in a Doctor Who festive special.
Lez Brotherson OBE is an associate of Matthew Bourne’s company New Adventures. Brotherson has also received many awards, including a Tony award and an Olivier for his design work. It is a fantastic opportunity for the Scottish Ballet to have such a modern and innovative designer for their productions, such as The Snow Queen. It helps to modernise Ballet, typically a very traditional art form. Changing these stories and adding modern designs helps bring in newer audiences and helps to keep older audiences interested and wanting to come back.
The Snow Queen is the perfect family ballet for the festive time. There was a bustling energy in the theatre at the interval and at the end of the show, giving the impression everyone loved the show. Watch out The Nutcracker, it is looking like there might be some competition this Christmas season!
The Snow Queen runs until December 10th at Edinburgh’s Festival Theatre, before going on tour that runs through to February. Visiting Glasgow, Aberdeen, Inverness, and Newcastle.
For more information and ticket’s visit https://www.scottishballet.co.uk/