The Snow Queen review at Bristol Old Vic – ‘deliciously dark’

The Snow Queen at Bristol Old Vic. Photo: Mark Douet

Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen was the inspiration for Disney’s Frozen, albeit in heavily edited form: Vivienne Franzmann’s adaptation, in contrast, maintains the major plot points of the original, including the flower witch, the robber girl and the reindeer. It combines them with new characters and several modern twists.

The most memorable parts of this production are Franzman’s deliciously dark additions. Joanna Holden as Boffin Goblin, who oversees the abduction of children to be fed to the Snow Queen, sniffs out her victims in a similar manner to Roald Dahl’s witches.

Like the questing Gerda (Emily Burnett), the narrative does lose its way in parts. A proletariat revolution headed by woodland creatures proves inconclusive and the start of the second act is jumbled.

The major strength of Lee Lyeford’s production is Tom Rogers’ design. Will Duke’s video projections begin with a giant eyeball keeping watch over an otherwise bucolic rose-garlanded village. The Snow Queen’s laboratory-like palace is disturbingly sterile, whilst the robber family live in a cavernous hovel among mountains of furniture.

Accordion and violin music performed by Faith and Branko Ristic switches between mournfulness and playfulness in a nice echo of the original story’s tone.

The biggest attraction is the Snow Queen herself. Using puppetry design by Marc Parrett, she towers over the audience like a giant snow-coated corn doll. Despite her evilness, the impressiveness of the creation makes her eventual defeat (almost) unfortunate.


Rich visuals and brilliant puppetry compensate for a slightly over-stuffed plot