The Snow Queen – like so many of Hans Christian Andersen’s fairytales – is a dark story. A boy is kidnapped and his heart is frozen, while his best friend sets out on an arduous quest to save him. In adapting this tale for audiences of three and up, Tutti Frutti have softened its edges, losing much of the scariness but also, along with it, a bit of the magic.
Revisiting Andersen’s tale, which he first adapted several years ago, writer Mike Kenny updates the narrative. Best friends Gerda and Kai no longer live in nineteenth-century garrets but on the top floor of a modern tower block, where they play on Gerda’s balcony. Summers follow winters, until one day the Snow Queen’s icy grip seizes Kai’s heart.
While many aspects of the story are toned down, Kenny channels the darkness of Andersen’s original into a real-world tragedy. In this version, it’s grief as much as sorcery that numbs Kai’s feelings and shuts him off from the world. It’s a gentle way of introducing kids to death and mortality, though the production sometimes seems undecided in its mixing of magic and metaphor.
Ivan Scott’s lively musical numbers, energetically performed by the cast of three, are the highlights of the show. But there’s a bittiness to this pick’n’mix adaptation, with many scenes feeling like awkward bridges from one song and dance sequence to the next.
As always in Tutti Frutti’s shows, there’s a lot to like, but in this instance it doesn’t quite hang together.