Reviewed – 24th November 2018
“As snow cascades onto the audience, they eagerly wave to the snowman and dance in the aisles”
In Raymond Briggs’ popular Christmas classic, a young boy’s snowman comes to life on Christmas Eve. After tiptoeing around the house, midnight feasting and dressing up, James and The Snowman take off on a North Pole adventure. Birmingham Rep’s adaptation of Briggs’ book and Dianne Jackson’s film revives the festive fable with some welcome surprises. The addition of bad-guy, Jack Frost and an ice princess who dance the tango with the snowman may drift from the original story, but this can be excused as the light-hearted rendition captures the attention of the very young audience throughout, despite having no dialogue. Perhaps the most unexpected twist, a giant fruit limbo competition (why not, ay?) has the audience roaring with laughter.
Needless to say, the highpoint of the play is the timeless Walking in the Air flying sequence which ends the first act. It has all who are watching transfixed and brings a whimsical twist with the pair flying over seas, mountains, and a drunken brass band player. The charming dream scene which closes the second act captures the magic of the silent film with childhood innocence. Balletic woodland animals and prancing reindeers with highly detailed costumes create a picturesque wintry scene.
The stage design of Ruari Murchison plays a huge part in transporting the audience to a winter wonderland, with a snow-globe proscenium arch and an idyllic set. As snow cascades onto the audience, they eagerly wave to the snowman and dance in the aisles. The stage effects and lighting maintain the effect of snow fall throughout – a perfect setting for the enchanting choreography of Robert North. The famous score with music and lyrics by Howard Blake clearly inspires the gestures and movement. North makes ballet accessible to a new audience with his choreography, expertly performed by the Ice Princess and Jack Frost. Due respect must also be given to The Snowman (Martin Fenton) for fantastically leaping and pirouetting in a fluffy snowman suit. The young boy cast as James is a confident performer with excellent miming abilities.
Now in its 21st year at the Peacock Theatre, The Snowman is a nostalgia trip for parents and the perfect treat to kick-start the festive season for all the family.
Reviewed by Beth Partington
Photography by Tristram Kenton
Peacock Theatre until 6th January