What a delightful and lovely show! Whether or not the very young ones 'got' it or not, I doubt - and this was being advertised as suitable for ages 3 upwards - but the older children certainly did, most of them sitting quietly and listening for the entire 55 minutes.

The production in question was Snow Child, a child-friendly adaptation of an old Russian folk story about a childless couple in a forest village wishing so hard they had a young child that they create a young girl out of the snow and put clothes on 'her'. As the lady kisses the child the warmth of her breath injects life into the snow child and she becomes real, ending up living with the couple as their own daughter.

The production was presented by Tutti Frutti and York Theatre Royal and lasted just less than an hour without interval, which, for 5 years and up was just about right, but again, younger than five were struggling to keep quiet and be attentive.

The stage [design by Kate Bunce] was set in winter colours of beige, cream and white, and consisted of crates in a semi-circle and various upturned brooms scattered in and amongst them which acted as trees. A backcloth in the same colours with additional stars, and on the forestage some very small white houses indicating the village. The central performance area was lit with goboed snowflakes and strewn with fake snow. The whole thing looked really lovely, especially seeing that the actors' costumes were also in the same three colours.

As the play progressed, the houses were picked up by the cast and used as lanterns, the brooms were moved and used in various ways, and the crates formed house interior, rocky mountain and whatever else the story needed. It was a very simple but effective design appealing to my Brechtian stage design principals!

Another absolutely lovely touch was that the three actors came into the audience prior to the start of the play, interacting with the young children in a most inoffensive, calming and pleasing manner. Two of them had large snowballs which they invited the children to play catch with and the third, the girl who played The Snow Child, smiling ever so sweetly at everyone inviting them to enjoy her story.

It was an excellent start. If only they had continued in that vein for the entire performance it would have been first class. If they had involved the audience in their story, asked the audience for help and suggestions [ Snow Child tried this only once when putting on the clothes but it was a very half-hearted attempt and the audience really did not understand whether they were supposed to respond or not. ] If only they had allowed the children to walk on to the set, and touch the animals they created. If any of these things had happened and included the children fully, immersing them into and letting them become part of the story, it would have been truly magical.

Unfortunately what we were given instead was a 55 minute play. The forth wall came up and stayed up, meaning that their walking in the audience at the start had been somewhat in vain.

However, the play was very good, and I really enjoyed watching it. My only concern again stems from your advertised target audience. You are three actors, and the Snow Child stays constant throughout. However, both the other actors take on three characters each with minimal costume or vocal change. I would question whether or not the youngsters understood this. Further, the section where the couple are discussing wanting a child and the Snow Child is standing and intermingling with them, but invisible to them was rather confusing and again would not be clear and understood by your target audience.

I really liked the music and the choreography. Personally I really loved the show altogether, but I am a single 47 year old male!! Perhaps something a little more modern in the way of music in order to grab the children's attention might have worked better than the quiet folksy melodies that you played and sang so well.

The three cast were, The Snow Child {Mei Mac}, The Father, a Young Boy from the village and a Bear {Mark Pearce} and The Mother, a Young Girl from the village and a Fox {Paula James}. They worked together excellently and the very tight and inventive direction {Wendy Harris} was indeed good. But would a three year old understand that this 'mother' and 'father' were now playing young children the same age as the young Snow Child in one scene, changing quickly to become a fox in another etc? And would they understand the story? That to me was the biggest problem. A lot of the story was narrated (which makes it more difficult for young children to relate to), and so much of the vocabulary was really quite advanced too. The really young ones only came alive when they were splattered in fake snow or the snow came down onto the Snow Child's head. In other words, for a story like this to be truly successful, it is the VISUALS which matter more than anything, and the visuals in this story were, in the main, all too adult and obscure.


Reviewer: Mark Dee

Reviewed: 22nd December 2015