The Snowman, The Peacock Theatre, Sadler’s Wells

Published: Friday, December 9, 2011 8:17 | Review by: Gillian Fisher |
The Snowman, Peacock Theatre
The Snowman, Peacock Theatre

Waking to a world transformed overnight to a frosty fairyland little James sets himself the task of building a snowman. But as witching hour falls at the stroke of midnight our hero sneaks from his bed to check on his creation only to discover that he has come to life and a night of magical adventure ensues.

Raymond Briggs’ much loved tale has become an established tradition of the Christmas season and seeing the familiar characters transformed to live dancing glory was a real sight to behold. From beginning to end the production abounded with creative and humorous touches from the Snowman’s fingers turning to icicles to the snow falling inside the theatre. Use of lighting and projection is phenomenal, bathing the proceedings in silver, blue, pink and purple tones to set off each scene to perfection, particularly when the added fluttering effect of snowfall occurs. The stage is outlined by an arch and framed by gently curving silver fir trees giving the impression that all events are taking place in the enchanted light of a giant silver moon.

Performances are magnificent; excellent fusion of ballet and modern dance with physical theatre. The little boy was fantastically natural, excitedly jumping around the stage and emoting silently but superbly. The man of snow himself moved with heavy undulating movements and quick bobbings of the head making him jolly and loveable. The ensemble which included squirrels, reindeer, penguins, Father Christmas and a range of politically incorrect snowpersons were all incredibly skilled. With no dialogue or visible facial expressions they twirled, mimed, sashayed and gestured their characters with considerable aplomb.

The show remains as true as possible to the structure and spirit of Dianne Jackson’s 1982 animation, replicating the best known scenes such as the Snowman trying on human clothes and the journey to the North Pole shot for shot. A few additions enhance the theatricality of the production, such as the toys in the living room coming to life with a distinct feel of the Nutcracker. We also see the inclusion of a nefarious Jack Frost who saunters and spins at lightning speed around the stage, as well as an Ice Princess who obviously has a soft spot for the Snowman. As the magical interludes unfold the live orchestra fills the theatre with deep bassed lively rhythm; ranging from light and twinkly to slow and foreboding, Howard Blake’s score punctuates the moods and movements of the characters perfectly.

This is the 14th consecutive run of The Snowman at Sadler’s Wells and it is easy to see why.

An absolutely charming production; fantastically staged, brilliantly performed and beautifully presented. There is a wonderful nostalgia to this play, a backwards glance to a time when Christmas was filled with wonder and enchanted snowmen were quite within the realms of believability. As a lover of the original flickering animation my expectations were extremely high and whilst this version was at times a tad saccharine for my taste the universal and multi generational appeal was incredible. Sitting in the audience I found myself surrounded by open mouthed three year olds, beaming grandparents and a pair of teenage girls dressed in Snowman sleep-suits, all enthralled by the dreamlike spectacle before them. I have to admit to being slightly disappointed at not being able to dance in the snow at the end due to small children getting there first, but that’s not really a shortcoming of the production.

The perfect Christmas family show, which will leave you walking on air, if not in it.

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Info: The Snowman is at the Peacock Theatre, Sadler’s Wells until January 8, 2012

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