Friday night was my department’s christmas lunch. As it worked out, this was very nicely timed with my parents coming to stay for the weekend, in that i was able to get a lift into work in the morning, go to lunch in The Living Room – just outside the walls of the newly restored Oxford Prison, now a hotel – partake in a few glasses of wine, and go for drinks with everyone afterwards and get picked up by mum and dad outside the Ashmoleon Museum on their way north…
Then on Saturday night we went to Creation Theatre’s new production of Hans Christen Andersen’s Snow Queen in the crisp white industrial lines of the the BMW Car Factory (where they make the minis). The site specific theatre company normally do Shakespeare and in the parks of Oxford in the summer, although in recent years they have done Macbeth in an actual working car factory using cars as props, and have done winter shows in an antique spiegeltent (mirror tent). Following on from last year’s A Christmas Carol, this was the company moving back into the warm into a vast deep theatre space to tell the story of Kay and Gerdur and their fight against the Ice Queen.
It was, quite simply, fantasically brilliantly magical. If you are anywhere remotely near Oxford – hell if you are anywhere remotely near England! – you should get along to see the disco dancing the crows, the rollerskating villains, and (for you Archers fans) the reasons why Kirsty won’t be getting any really beefy storylines in the next couple of months.
Front Row reviewed the show last week, and I felt compelled to email Mark Lawson/the show to tell him that he had thoroughly missed the point. Firstly, in the review Mr Lawson said that at just short of 3 hours long, they had added in other fairy stories into the story of the Snow Queen, but this is simply not true. I came back and read Andersen’s original. It is a story that contains a series of smaller adventures: Jasmine and the flower people, Mr and Miss Crow, the Bandit Queen and the Cod Women. It’s all there in the original, and this is what Creation Theatre gave us.
Secondly, Mr Lawson went on and on and on about whether the very traditional theatrical techniques would work for a modern audience of kids who have grown up with the Harry Potter and Tolkien films and the dvd and playstation generation. Well, Mr Lawson, to answer that abasolutely rediculous question you just have to observe the kids in the audience and hear them talk in the interval and as they leave at the end. Sheets for flowing rivers that spit red boots back out repeatedly, rollerskating across vast tracts of stage, evil queens on stilts and a small cast that swells throughout the the show to make you think it is vast, are fantastic techniques used creatively to imaginative effect.
This is a show, which, stands alongside the great tradiional festive fair of The Nutcracker no less – it’s a show that could and should be revived year after year adding to it and updating it in subtle ways and always seeming fresh. It’s a classic in the making.
Go see it. Now. That’s an order.