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Birmingham Repertory Theatre’s The Snowman at The Peacock Theatre

Birmingham Repertory Theatre-The Snowman - Credit Tristram Kenton
Birmingham Repertory Theatre – The Snowman – Credit Tristram Kenton

Since its first showing on Channel 4 in 1982, The Snowman has established itself as a Christmas must-do activity alongside presents, the tree, mistletoe, sending cards, turkey, A Christmas Carol, Carols from Kings College Cambridge and The Sound of Music. Based on the book by Raymond Briggs the 1982 animated film was elevated to another level in large part because of Howard Blake’s superb score with its spellbinding song Walking in the Air. This song was famously covered by Aled Jones in 1985 for a Toys R Us TV advert. That got the snowball rolling. Pun intended. Concert performances followed. The Snowman is now in the children’s top ten all-time favourites ahead of The Nutcracker and Peter and the Wolf. The 20-minute film has now become a 90-minute stage show with ballet, slapstick and the subplot of Jack Frost (Benjamin Harrold, a perfect villain) and the Ice Princess (Tomoyo Tanimoto Jequier, exquisite).

The stage is very busy indeed. Over the course of 90 minutes, the stage resembles the conveyor belt on The Generation Game as wonderful goodies pass us by. Don’t blink or you’ll miss the fridge (from which appear a trio of life-size fruits – a banana, a pineapple and a kiwi), the freezer into which The Snowman (Martin Fenton, delightful) lies down for a rest but not before The Boy (Cameron James Sutherland, fantastic) has removed a large box of fish fingers, the motorbike on which The Snowman takes The Boy for a spin around the stage, the presents under the tree which turn magically into the toy soldier and dancer from The Nutcracker, two hilariously comic penguins straight from the Penguin Café, a windup music box with ballet dancer, a guided tour of The Boy’s house in which The Snowman almost melts by the electric fire, and of course the journey through the air as The Snowman takes The Boy to the North Pole. Here the show becomes global as we meet Snowmen and Snowwomen from all continents. I particularly enjoyed the tartan wearing Scottish snowman (Jamie McDonald) who gave his dancing partner the traditional Glasgow kiss (head-butt) every time he wishes to dance. We also meet Father Christmas (Federico Casadei) who has presents for everyone except Jack Frost. The Boy receives a beautiful bright blue scarf, this will be his proof that what happened was real and not just a dream. This new version, of course, keeps the journey to the North Pole centre stage (it’s done very well with harnesses by Flying Effects LTD) but adds a whole new dimension with the subplot of Jack Frost and his attempt to kidnap the Ice Princess. This brings a wonderful balletic element to the show which I am sure will inspire many of the young people in the audience to take up ballet or at least ask their parents to take them to see a ballet. The Nutcracker maybe? This show is absolutely jam-packed with music, dance, slapstick comedy, special effects and much much more. I left the theatre walking through the air as I skipped down Kingsway singing. Uplifting stuff. Just what the Dr ordered.

4 stars

Review by John OBrien

Forty years ago, Raymond Briggs’ beautifully illustrated book The Snowman transported children into the wintery wonderland of a boy and his snowy companion.

Now, in its record-breaking 21st year at The Peacock, Birmingham Repertory Theatre’s twinkling production of The Snowman returns, as a magical mix of exquisite dancing and live music lift the boy and his friend from page to stage.

Inspired by the film directed by Dianne Jackson and produced by John Coates, Birmingham Repertory Theatre’s production of The Snowman has become “an essential part of London’s Christmas calendar” (Time Out). Featuring unforgettable music and lyrics by Howard Blake – including the timeless Walking in the Air – the performance has been seen by audiences of over half a million at The Peacock.

The Birmingham Repertory Theatre Production of
The Snowman (TM)
The Peacock, WC2A 2HT
Thursday 22 November 2018 – Sunday 6 January 2019


  • John OBrien

    JOHN O’BRIEN born in London in 1960 is a born and bred Londoner. His mother was an illiterate Irish traveller. His early years were spent in Ladbroke Grove. He was born at number 40 Lancaster Road. In 1967 the family was rehoused in Hackney. He attended Brooke House School for Boys in Clapton, - as did Lord Sugar. He became head boy and was the first person in his family to make it to university, gaining a place at Goldsmiths College in 1978. He took a degree in Sociology and a PGCE . From 1982 until 1993 he taught at schools in Hackney and Richmond. In 1984-85 he attended Bristol University where he gained a Diploma in Social Administration. From 1985 until 1989 he studied part-time in the evenings for a degree in English Literature at Birkbeck College. He stayed on at Birkbeck from 1990-1992 to study for an MA in Modern English Literature. He left teaching in 1993 and has worked as a tutor, researcher, writer and tour guide. He leads bespoke guided tours on London’s history, art , architecture and culture. He has attended numerous courses at Oxford University - Exeter College, Rewley House & Kellogg College. In London, he attends courses at Gresham College, The National Gallery, The British Museum, The Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, The British Academy and The Royal Society. Read the latest London theatre reviews by all reviewers.

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