I was quite excited about experiencing the interactive production The Snow Queen. I’ve been to shows before where some audience participation is required…shouting out, answering questions, hands up and so on. But the level of interaction between audience and cast created by Theatr Clwyd and Paperfinch Theate was new to me. Paperfinch call it adventure theatre, and it really did feel like we were embarking on a wonderful adventure as we set off with our coloured lanyards.
A mysterious mirror was broken and we made our way through into the unknown under the guidance of Haggis McAndersen (Alex Edwards). My daughters were very impressed by the crack effects on the walls and the UV lighting.
There were white, black, blue and green lanyards and we were separated quickly and without fuss to set off on different routes. We met Kai (Holly Davies), who was anxious the gift he had given best friend Gerda (Robyn Sinclair) was not enough, so our first involvement in the story was to gather blue roses from the ground to make a beautiful bouquet to give to her.
Together we made our way to Little Clwyd where an old-fashioned Christmas fair was in full swing. It was filled with happy noise and different stalls where you could play with dough, have a ginger beer or warm Ribena, have your fortune told, dress up, or have your portrait drawn. The stall holders were very talented and entertaining and wonderful with the children – it was a delight to see the wonder on their little faces.
The room’s centrepiece was a great gypsy-type caravan where Kai and Gerda performed a song to each other as best friends and we all joined in with the signing. We were urged to gather towards the caravan as it began to snow. Kai was struck by ice and we were all sent to different worlds and took different paths to make our way back and find Kai.
Our group were ushered by bees, some very cool Warhol/disco-esque characters in glam black outfits, white bob wigs and white sunglasses. We were treated to a performance by the bees and The Snow Queen, before we donned silver disco wigs and became honorary bees. We were chastised if we answered in human and had to answer in bee – “buzz buzz”.
The Snow Queen (Josh Sneesby) was a wonderful presence, in a Baroque meets Glam Rock via the 80s outfit of white and silver and carrying a keytar. Whether a twist on the pantomime dame trope or a nod to gender fluidity, despite being referred to as she, there was no attempt at women’s make-up or disguising the beard and chest hair. The Snow Queen was all the more fabulous for this in my opinion and her haughty humour and wonderful singing kept me engrossed in the action. Josh Sneesby was also the production’s composer and musical director – a really talented man.
At one point we were asked to audition in a talent show for Princess Lollipop so that she would pick someone to marry and allow us through the portal. I was a bit worried but some of the group’s children stepped in and performed talents including speaking Welsh and then we all joined in to compose lyrics for a song for the Princess. The capricious Princess was played delightfully by Elen Bodey – she told me on two occasions that she was getting married.
In another room someone was asked to play the keytar and after the Snow Queen asked a couple of times and no one volunteered I stepped in. After I played my six notes Eternia read my fortune and said I would give up my job as a press officer, win the X Factor and after some time with a girl group become a solo rock star and have crowds chanting my name! The little girl that followed was told she would become an astronaut, which she seemed pleased with.
There were some scarier sections along the way involving crows and trolls, but none of the children seemed too frightened.
Eventually we were back in Little Clwyd where we had to solve a puzzle by piecing together the shards of broken mirror and eventually found Kai. When he dramatically retold the things he had seen, things took a bit of an intense turn which seemed a little at odds with the rest of the evening. But Kai was soon soothed by his best friend Gerda and we once again sang the best friend song while blue petals fell on us.
We danced and mingled with the cast, all but three of which were from the community. I was very impressed with the standard of performance and the effort made to interact with as many audience members as possible. We enjoyed some warm and funny interchanges that really made our day. It was a beautifully happy ending to an entertaining whirlwind of an evening.
The Snow Queen is at Theatr Clwyd, Mold, until Saturday 6 January 2018. Tickets are £12 and £8 and available at www.theatrclwyd.com or by calling the box office on 01352 701521.
Reviewer supported by Wales Critics Fund