Richard Lutz takes a pew at The Birmingham Rep for an enchantingly innocent children’s classic.
What better play to see deep in this wintery cold snap than The Snowman?
The stage production is only 23 years old but already it seems to be as part of the Christmas rollout as fir trees implanted in your front room, a shedload of presents and endless turkey sandwiches after the holiday blow out.
The Birmingham Rep initially produced this play about…well, a snowman who soars away with a little boy high above an English wintery landscape. And really, that is it when you reduce this confection to a plotline. All else is digestible dance, a music score that tootles along and a safe play for little kids.
Eleven year old Oscar Couchman (as the boy) gamely takes on this balletic production backed by a live orchestra and bejewelled, of course, with that classic song Walking on Air. And a resourceful troupe of dancers defeat the challenge of performing in costumes that would encumber most of us: The Snowman, Santa Claus, a Scottish snowman, a Chinese Snowman, a Fred Astaire snowman, a cowboy snowman. You get the idea.
One hitch: a wire that lifted the Snowman and the boy became entangled in scenery, leaving the pair dangling for a moment. But that was quickly fixed and we got an extra intermission out of it while techies grappled with the problem.
But why go on about this enchanting and innocent Raymond Briggs story? I leave it to my six year old co-reviewer Conor to add his thoughts.
“I liked the different snowman that came on stage when they went to the North Pole,” he told me, not worrying too much about spoiler alerts. “Especially, the Chinese one that danced funny. And I liked it when the big snowman put on funny glasses like in a comedy show on TV.”
Conor also got a kick, I can exclusively reveal, when artificial snow danced down on our heads after the curtain call. And, as an afterthought, he had high marks for the chocolate ice cream.
Finally, hats off especially to The Rep’s resident designer Ruari Murchison who uses every inch of The Rep’s oversized main stage. I counted five arches reaching over the actors to create depth in what are scenes of domestic life, snowy streets, deep forests and arctic winters. Very clever stuff.
Until 24th January, 2016. www.birmingham-rep.co.uk/event/the-snowman-2016/