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A couple of Christmases ago, in Theresa Heskins’ production of The Worst Witch, Polly Lister doubled the roles of headteacher Miss Cackle and her villainous twin Agatha. In the most giddily enjoyable scene, she wore both outfits at once and switched between the parts at lightning speed as the sisters battled it out.
At Scarborough’s Stephen Joseph theatre, Lister goes several steps further in The Snow Queen, Nick Lane’s new adaptation of the Hans Christian Andersen fairytale. With the sort of sugar rush you get from wolfing several days’ worth of a chocolate advent calendar, Lister juggles the roles of another pair of good and bad sisters, the Sun Sorceress and the Snow Queen. But she also plays best friends Gerda and Kai; a cigar-chewing granny who flirts with the audience like a panto dame; a scooter-riding reindeer; and a raven who specialises in scatological verse. Fancy hearing a bit of “pooetry”? You’re in luck: Black Drop envisions a vista of bird droppings falling from the sky like snow.
Lister is a one-woman whirlwind, even if this spirited 90-minute production – filmed before a socially distanced audience – begins to run out of steam. Gerda and Kai, who are also represented by solemn-faced puppets, are not the sparkiest of heroes and their to-the-end-of-the-world friendship never quite convinces. The relationship between the two sisters is similarly thin.
There is plenty of witty wordplay and a scattering of local references in Paul Robinson’s production, as the Snow Queen hatches her plan to put Santa out of business by moving the names of all the nice children on to his naughty list. Lane’s script nods at the challenge of feeling festive amid a pandemic, with its vision of the “Other Scarborough” and an emphasis on daydreaming and the magic of imagination.
Paul Stear’s lighting provides atmospheric shifts between the seasons on Helen Coyston’s attractive set, with its garden design decorated with snail-like squirl patterns, a cupboard hiding a hedgehog DJ, and a chorus of flowers who become backing singers for Simon Slater’s songs.
Even if you’ve taken down your own decorations, it all adds up to a welcome burst of festive fun. And with schools closed and weeks of lockdown to weather, who wouldn’t want Christmas to last a bit longer this year?
Source: The Guardian
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