REVIEW – Snow Queen (The Z-Arts Centre, Manchester)

Snow Queen at Z-Arts Centre in Hulme, Manchester.
Snow Queen at Z-Arts Centre in Hulme, Manchester.
Upstaged Rating: 

THINGSTARS:  

One of my earliest theatre memories is playing the part of Gerda in a very traditional production of Hans Christian Anderson’s Snow Queen. It’s always been one of my favourite stories and so I was particularly excited to hear that it would be the Christmas production at Manchester’s family-friendly Z-Arts this year. With the intelligent fusion of live performance, puppetry and digital storytelling – Z-Arts are nothing short of triumphant with their refreshing twist on the classic fable of the Snow Queen.

Set in the modern day, looked-after child Kai (Gordon Millar) is afraid that he may have to leave the comfortable home which he shares with his foster parent Aunty Jayne (Denise Kennedy) and Gerda (Nisa Cole), her adopted daughter. Kai is a keen gamer and uses his alternative existence in cyberspace to escape the reality that he may have to return to live with his father in the future. Becoming increasingly withdrawn from his beloved Gerda and spending longer time gaming, makes him susceptible to the evil Snow Queen (Bryony Thomas), a super virus intent on entering our world through Kai. Gerda sets out to rescue Kai from the clutches of the Snow Queen by following him into his alternative digital world.

Jane Linz Roberts’ set design moves fluidly to suggest a range of different settings – Aunty Jayne’s home, a range of eclectic settings in cyberspace and the Snow Queen’s ice palace. Powerful and highly effective digital projections by Cubic Flowers suggest the atmosphere perfectly – as we shiver through an ice cold blizzard and avert our eyes from the swarm of spiders. Humorous puppets by Liz Walker in the form of farting frogs, Robber Girl, and snowflake soldiers Derek and Keith make many children and their grown-ups giggle.

Bryony Thomas’ Snow Queen is a true villain, moving like an arachnid around the stage – low to the ground and contorted – just the right amount of horror for a young audience. Thing 1 and Thing 2 were impressed by Gordon Millar’s performance as Kai. Nisa Cole also played the young Gerda well and Ebony Feare and Denise Kennedy demonstrated their versatility playing a range of diverse characters between them.

Writer Philip Osment and director Jonathan McGrath have certainly delivered a fantastic family friendly show for Z-Arts this December. Following the show, Thing 1 and Thing 2 prompted a discussion about fostering and adoption, proving that theatre can educate as well as entertain.

-Kristy Stott

The Snow Queen glides to Z-Arts from the 3rd – 13th December 2015. For more information and to book tickets please click here.

This Christmas Z-Arts want to offer children in care FREE tickets – but they need your help.

Z-Arts have produced a cracking show with a difference – Hans Christian Andersen’s SNOW QUEEN becomes an evil online virus and the heroes, Kai and Gerda are brought together within the care system. It’s a story of friendship triumphing against all odds.

To help support Z-Arts as they seek to raise just £6 per child please click here.

 

 


REVIEW – The Possible Impossible House (The Z-Arts Centre, Manchester)

Being a huge fan of Sheffield based experimental theatre company Forced Entertainment – I was very keen to find out more about their first production for young people, The Possible Impossible House.

The Possible Impossible House --Forced Entertainment--
The Possible Impossible House
–Forced Entertainment–
Upstaged Rating: 

THINGSTARS:  

The Possible Impossible House is a wonderful exploration of the power of storytelling and a lesson for all, young and old, in setting your imagination free. The magical adventure begins as we travel down the long winding corridors of The Possible Impossible House. Claire Marshall is our guide and she leads us through the twisting passageways. When we reach the library we meet a little girl who is sketched onto a blank page in an algebra book. This endearing little doodled character is desperately missing the matching scribbled spider who used inhabit the opposite page – we are invited to join her on her mission to find her little eight legged friend.

It’s essentially a two hander with Claire Marshall recounting the story to the audience while Cathy Naden provides the humorous soundtrack. Comedy is created through storyteller, Claire and sound-maker, Cathy as they both compete to take control of the story. Both performers are supported by wonderfully scruffy illustrations by Vlatka Horvat as our journey spans elaborate marble ballrooms, secret cupboards and black holes and we meet an array of familiar but surprising creatures – talking animals, a not-so-very-frightening-ghost and an army of dancing soldiers.

“I really liked Cathy. She made me laugh when she interrupted and when she ate celery and pretended to be a mouse…everybody was laughing!”

–Thing 1 (aged 9)

The storyline is beautifully childlike, as if penned by a 7 year old, it’s spontaneous and imaginative. Under Tim Etchells’ direction, Horvat’s magical doodles are projected on to large pieces of torn brown cardboard all going to prove that good quality children’s theatre does not have to rely on lavish sets or costumes.

This production is as much fun for the adults in the audience as it is for the little ones. As always Forced Entertainment blow apart our traditional expectations of theatre- which is children’s theatre in this case. The result is witty, engaging theatre that doesn’t patronise – layered with irony and humour and pitched at a level that both children and adults can appreciate.

-Kristy Stott

You can catch The Possible Impossible House at Lancaster Arts at Lancaster University on the 12th December. 

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The Snow Queen glides to Z-Arts from the 3rd – 13th December 2015. For more information and to book tickets please click here.