Review of The Snow Queen by Hans Christian Anderson Produced by Theatre in the Quarter and Marketing by Chester Performs at St Mary’s Centre
Theatre in the Quarter are currently performing “The Snow Queen” from 5th December to 11th January at St Mary’s Centre.
St Mary’s Centre provides the ideal backdrop for this Hans Christian Anderson masterpiece with its wonderful gothic architectural style and affordance of close proximity to the stage which epitomises this faultless setting with its relaxed family atmosphere. Used for so many diverse functions St Mary’s Centre really is a cultural jewel in the crown for the aspirations of this picturesque City of Chester.
As you approach the venue you are greeted with a spectacle of entertainment in the form of a Winter Circus commencing some 30 minutes before the main performance embarks. Members of the cast both young and old engage their audience with questions and words of advice setting the framework for the enchanting environment that is to follow.
Theatre in the Quarter again exceed our expectations with original music from the very talented Matt Baker, superb character storytelling throughout, a rich fusion of professional and community performers, outstanding digital media and an exceptional range of costumes all combine to make this a truly memorable performance.
The account commences as the sorcerer makes a magic mirror which only reflects evil and depravity in people and when it raised to infiltrate heaven it falls and scatters into millions of pieces.
The pieces like grains of sand are scattered throughout the world and enter the eyes and hearts of the population. Their hearts become frozen like blocks of ice devoid of all sentiment and their eyes see only evil in their surroundings depicting the image of the magic mirror itself.
Katie Foster Barnes as Gerda displayed all emotions from audacity and determination to love and devotion as she embarks on her perilous journey to save Kia from the clutches of the Snow Queen. It was a wonderful performance of acting and melody from this talented young actress as she is confronted by numerous hazards on her dangerous expedition. Her dedication and courage kept the audience enthralled as she encounters everything from menacing robbers to a polar bear, whilst also experiencing comradeship from friendly foe in various guises including affable ravens and repenting thieves.
It was pleasurable to welcome back some of the cast from the very successful production from A Christmas Carol last year in the Town Hall.
None more so than Ben Tolley who returns as the Sorcerer a very different role from that of Bob Cratchit but one in which he truly excels. Ben’s performance was magnificent throughout capturing all the cunning and evilness the part commanded. Always very much the pivotal figure on stage displaying his versatility of talents from actor to musician and surpassing in his various roles including Robber King and a Raven making this a truly imposing performance. It was incredibly humorous to witness him as the sociable Raven Huginn enthralling his audience with his mischievous pranks which included stealing sweets from the children present.
It was equally delightful to witness the return of Michelle Long playing Nanna among others in this current production with some remarkable story telling which kept the audience both young and old engrossed and spellbound throughout. Her performance was superb playing such a mature role for someone from a younger generation.
Kai played by local actor David Edwards returns following appearances in last years’ Christmas production and also featuring in the Chester Mystery Plays. An impressive display of character acting in which he parades a range of emotions from being callous and arrogant to hopelessness and a conflict of allegiance as the enactment unfolds. When the Snow Queen pleads with him to stay the pain is clearly etched on his face as he agonizes whether to leave his abductor and who could blame him.
The Snow Queen played by Cassandra Charlick brought together an exceptional exhibition of acting which was equaled if not surpassed with some wonderful singing of various genres. Cassandra commanded the stage at all times and was always the pivotal figure throughout the performance whether mesmerizing her audience as she revealed the astounding range of her vocal capacity or displaying the malevolent and malicious aspects of her acting protagonist. Towards the conclusion we also witness a more compassionate and gentler Snow Queen exposing a more vulnerable facet to her character and captivating those of us who were fortunate to be present. Congratulations must be given to Theatre in the Quarter for apprehending the services of someone with such outstanding all round ability and quality to play the role.
Russ Tunney’s adaptation was spectacular combining the original Hans Christian Anderson classic and interweaving this with attributes of Norse mythology proved to be a masterstroke.
While containing many features of the original version and supplementing these new dimensions proved to be a very successful concoction, not so much being a nuance of the innovative theme but more a virtuoso production in its own right.
The depiction was magical and fascinating from start to finish under the unparalleled direction of Russ Tunney. Russ brings together a cast of professional actors from stage and screen working with adults from our native community and local school children, all combining in a diversity of roles that make this a genuinely extraordinary production.
The design by Judith Croft and the ambient environment simulation created by the Film and Digital Media of Helen Newall was astounding and this coupled with the stunning Gothic setting of St Mary’s Centre made the production one of mesmeric proportions.
The music composed for the Snow Queen by Matt Baker and performed by professional and community singers was absolutely astonishing and again demonstrated the incredible aptitude that Matt possesses. To yet again create original music for this Production was another stroke of genius following on from the very efficacious unique scores produced for last years’ Christmas Carol and the Chester Mystery Plays serves only to demonstrate the exceptional talent of the Creator.
Matt credited the success for the complexity of the music composed for the Mystery Plays down to the raw talent that was available to him. I feel the same must by the case with this production particularly when he can call upon someone with the amazing vocals of Cassandra Charlick.
The Costumes were incredible as we were treated to an array of characters from robbers, penguins, reindeer, princes, princess, ravens and a polar bear. The Penguin scene performed by some of the younger elements of the cast was particularly entertaining as was the episode of the Ravens stealing sweets from the children in the audience.
The stage is continually engulfed in an astounding harmony of melody from soloists and amateur singers alike as the enactment unfurls accompanied by some exceptional musicians. This is not so much a fairytale production but an adaption on the original masterpiece which makes the current enactment suitable for all ages from three to ninety three. The venue is very much family orientated and guaranteed to leave all elements present full of admiration of the extraordinary performance they have just witnessed
The Snow Queen will be at St Mary’s Centre from 5th December – 11th January. Tickets are on sale now through theatreinthequarter.co.uk, in person from Chester Cathedral or by phone on 01244 500959.
Andrew D Thompson
Theatre in the Quarter presents The Snow Queen
Adapted by the story from Hans Christian Andersen at St Mary's Centre
5 December 2013 - 11 January 2014
St. Mary's Centre, St Mary's Hill (off Castle Street), Chester, CH1 2DW
Adapted and directed by Russ Tunney
Music by Matt Baker
Film by Helen Newall
Designed by Judith Croft
Following the hugely successful production of A Christmas Carol at the Town Hall last December, Theatre in the Quarter is back with a magical and inventive production of The Snow Queen.
All of the company's special ingredients - original music by Matt Baker, wonderful storytelling, digital media and a fusion of community and professional theatre performers - will combine to make another memorable and exciting Christmas feast.
Come and find Chester's magical hidden gem, St Mary's on the Hill, and join us on a journey to the Snow Queen's palace, meeting wild robbers, penguins, reindeer, princes, princesses, ravens and even a polar bear along the way!
Thursday 5 December 7.00pm
Friday 6 December 7.00pm
Saturday 7 December 1.30pm, 7.00pm
Thursday 12 December 7.00pm
Friday 13 December 7.00pm
Saturday 14 December 1.30pm, 7.00pm
Thursday 19 December 7.00pm
Friday 20 December 7.00pm
Saturday 21 December 1.30pm, 7.00pm
Friday 27 December 1.30pm, 7.00pm
Saturday 28 December 1.30pm, 7.00pm
Sunday 29 December 1.30pm, 7.00pm
Monday 30 December 1.30pm, 7.00pm
Thursday 2 January 1.30pm, 7.00pm
Friday 3 January 1.30pm, 7.00pm
Saturday 4 January 1.30pm, 7.00pm
Tuesday 7 January 1.30pm
Thursday 9 January 7.00pm
Friday 10 January 7.00pm
Saturday 11 January 1.30pm, 7.00pm
Public preview: all seats £7 (no concessions)
Matinees: £10 and £5 concessions
Evenings: £12 and £7 concessions
Schools: £6 per ticket
Box Office on (01244) 500959.
For special discount group bookings (buy 10 tickets, get 11th free), please call the Box Office.
Unwaged; under 18s; students; seniors; disabled.
We can post your tickets out to you for a fee of £1.00. If you would prefer, you can pick your tickets up from the Box Office at the Chester Cathedral Admissions Desk within the main cathedral building. You can also pick your tickets up on the afternoon or evening of the performance at St. Mary's Centre.
If you are a school group and would like to book group tickets, please call the Chester Cathedral Box Office on (01244) 500959.
Scheduled schools' performances are as follows:
Thursday 5 December 1.30pm
Friday 6 December 1.30pm
Monday 9 December 1.30pm
Tuesday 10 December 10.00am, 1.30pm
Thursday 12 December 1.30pm
Friday 13 December 1.30pm
Monday 16 December 1.30pm
Tuesday 17 December 10.00am, 1.30pm
Wednesday 18 December 10.00am, 1.30pm
Tuesday 7 January 10.00am
Thursday 9 January 1.30pm
Friday 10 January 1.30pm
Customer information: frequently asked questions
Where is St Mary’s Centre?
St Mary’s Centre (also known locally as St Mary’s within the Walls) is a deconsecrated church at the top of St Mary’s Hill, just off Castle Street. The postcode is CH1 2DW.
Where in the centre will the performance take place?
There will be pre-show entertainment outside the venue (subject to weather conditions) and as you enter. Audience members will experience a Cirque d’Hiver (a Winter Circus) - starting as the venue doors open, 30 minutes before the start of the performance. The main performance will take place in the centre of the building.
Customers will be greeted by our ushers on arrival at the venue – they will ensure that you find your way to the right point.
Seating will be on three sides with the stage arranged in a “thrust” format. All seats will be numbered. Most seats will be on the floor, but six rows towards the back of the main block will be raised.
Length of performance
We anticipate that the performance will last no more than 2 hours 20 minutes, including an interval. More precise information will be available at the beginning of December.
St Mary’s does not have an induction loop. There will be one or two signed performances – please check with the Box Office and/or on the website for further information.
Disabled access is through the main entrance to the venue. If you need seats on the floor (rather than raised seats), please advise the Box Office.
A maximum of 10 wheelchairs are permitted in the venue – we would therefore not be able to have more than 10 wheelchair users in a group. It is important that you advise us if you are a wheelchair user so that arrangements for your ease of access/comfort can be made. If we do have a group of wheelchair users booked in already for a performance you may be asked to attend an alternate performance if your booking exceeds the maximum wheelchair capacity. Please advise the Box Office if you will need assistance when you visit the centre.
Please note that a carer accompanying someone with disabilities can be admitted free of charge, but you do need to have a reserved ticket/seat.
Parking and public transport
St Mary’s Centre is tucked behind Castle Street, near to the Grosvenor Museum.
Private cars can be parked on Castle Square, very close to the venue, for all evening performances (free after 3pm). The charge on Saturday for matinees will be £5 for the full day. Castle Square is not available for general public parking from Monday – Friday during the day. For week day matinees it is best to park at the Little Roodee (pay and display), or at one of the other city centre car parks.
For other parking information (including park and ride) see http://www.cheshirewestandchester.gov.uk/residents/transport_and_roads/parking_and_permits.aspx. Please note that some city centre car parks close at 11pm and that the park and ride is not suitable for evening performances.
Chester train station is a 20 minute walk from St Mary’s (although there is a regular bus service from the station to the city centre, cutting the walk to 10 minutes). Buses to/from North Wales stop near the venue. The city centre bus station is a five – eight minute walk away.
Coach drop off and parking
Coaches can drop off and collect passengers close to the main entrance to the venue on Castle Street (CH1 2DW). The nearest coach parking is at the Little Roodee car and coach park on Castle Drive, off Grosvenor Road (next to the Grosvenor Bridge).
Late comers will be admitted at an appropriate time
Where is the best view from?
All seats have equal sight lines from which to view the performance.
Who will be performing?
The Snow Queen is being produced by Chester’s Theatre in the Quarter, a professional theatre company.
The production will be performed by a cast of five professional actors (see our website for further information), supported by a 20 strong community choir of adults and children
There will be a bar at St Mary’s before the show and during the interval for public matinees and all evening performances. Soft and alcoholic drinks (bottled beer/lager and wine), tea and coffee will be available and some light snacks. There are plenty of places to eat in the city centre if you would like to have a meal before or after the show.
There will not be a bar/refreshments available at schools’ performances.
What are your concessions?
Seniors: £5 matinees £7 evenings
Students: £5 matinees £7 evenings
Under 18s: £5 matinees £7 evenings
Unwaged: £5 matinees £7 evenings
Disabled: £5 matinees £7 evenings
Schools: £6 per ticket
Groups: 11th ticket goes free
The production will be suitable for all ages, although children under 10 should be accompanied by adults.
Photography is not permitted during a performance, although photographs may be taken during the curtain call at the end
How do I get involved?
For tickets go to www.theatreinthequarter.co.uk