While there’s been no sign of the real thing (yet), almost everywhere I have looked during this festive season, snow has been on the agenda, especially at carol services and on the drama horizon.
Twenty-four hours after The Snow Spider eight-legged it out of Cheltenham, Gloucester-based Rain or Shine Theatre rode back in, specifically to Hucclecote, to present their engagingly artistic adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen’s celebrated winter tale The Snow Queen.
The five-strong, versatile cast assumed a multitude of roles, including several large birds and a sympathetic reindeer, to tell one of the great fairy stories, securely anchored by director-cum-resonant storyteller James Reynard who also put in a cameo appearance as a wild crow.
Assisted by a huge, beautifully illustrated story-book to identify each scene, it was all brought enchantingly to life on an unassuming, but appropriately glacial set suffused with rich purple light, creating several quite beautiful tableaux.
Equally clever improvisation in the form of flowers, trees, a stream and the titular character’s sleigh elicited nods of appreciation, along with some mild amusement.
Even the story’s wintry atmosphere and events were effectively expressed by the icy chimes of an unseen mark tree.
For all that, it was still a tad pantomimish; most of the characters exuded a bit too much sweetness and light, cancelling out many of the original story’s darker elements, especially the virginal goody two-shoes Gerda.
All rise, however, for a peach of a performance from Claire Tucker as the resolute heroine, determined to free her beloved Kai, played by the clear-spoken Tyler Coombes who invested an otherwise wimpish individual with real clout and backbone.
Anthony Young capably filled most of the remaining parts, including cackling demons, helpful Laplanders and a dear old grandpa, but the best actress award this time round went to Pippa Meekings who positively smouldered in the title role.
Bedecked in glistening white, and exploiting her controlled sultry voice to perfection, she transformed the supposedly evil queen into a compassionate figure of considerable sympathy.
Her reluctance to release Kai, thus condemning herself to a lifetime of solitude, fostered a palpable sense of grief for a character who is presumed to be cold-hearted and wicked. But that is the genius of live theatre, and there is no shortage of it in Rain or Shine’s talent bank.