Review by Flossie Waite
A tutti-frutti production
Reviewed at Half Moon Theatre
Touring nationally and internationally from October 2015 – March 2016
For ages 3+
Snow Child has a dash of Raymond Briggs’ Snowman, a helping of Rousseau’s ‘child of nature’, and a sprinkling of Peter Pan. A childless couple fashion a girl out of snow, and are delighted when a kiss brings her to life. But their longed-for daughter is not what they expected – snow children don’t do the things that human children do. With more realism than your average fairytale, Snow Child is a reminder that wishing can be just the beginning of a more complex and often fraught story, but its idea of a happy ending is unconvincing.
Snow Child is at home in the depths of the forest, living on the tops of trees, fearless in the face of danger, and best friends with a fox. When she clambers into the coat and gloves left by the couple, it is out of curiosity: “It’s not that I want to be warm – I just wonder what it would be like!” Coming to life isn’t easy – her beating heart hurts her chest, and the feeling of warmth makes her melt. Though she already has family (“my mother is the blizzard, my father is the frost”), Mum and Dad take her home, and there the trouble really starts.
Every time Snow Child refuses an egg in favour of snow porridge, Mum and Dad are frustrated. When she tells them that snow children don’t sleep, they ask her to try. The mention of her friend the fox disgusts them. Their constant disappointment is rooted both in the fear of what other people will think, and the slowly vanishing dream of an imagined child. Still, they try to force her to fit their ideal. “Other people’s children do what they’re told!” they say, a phrase repeated in homes up and down the country. One of the production’s highlights is when “other people’s children” are invited round to be a good influence – of course, they are anything but.
Snow Child is happiest when she escapes the house in the middle of the night, to do what snow children do: dance when the moon hits the snow. There is lovely movement from Mei Mac, a very visual moment in a production led by words. Snow Child is more narrative-driven than most productions aimed at this age range (3+); the script and length would be more appropriate for older children.
Though Mum and Dad lie to Snow Child, break their promises, threaten her only friend and ask her to be everything but herself, her decision to forgive them and live with them is supposed to be a good thing (“They weren’t always perfect, but they were a family.”). She doesn’t really have a choice – their prolonged push for her conformity means that she begins to lose her powers: now she gets lost in the forest, and the animals that live there scare her. When the fox tells her “You belong with them now”, something special has been lost.
Peter Pan, similarly spirited and borne from nature, faced a similar fate, but when he was invited to live in London with the Darling children, he refused: “No one is going to catch me, lady”. Snow Child’s free spirit feels trapped by the ending.
Image by Simon Marshall.
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