The Snowman is an annual favourite at The Peacock Theatre. Without dialogue the music and songs composed by Howard Blake and played by an orchestra that’s present lead the tone and cracking pace of the show, capable of being understood by the smallest members of the audience.
The magical illusions of theatre are described on entry to the auditorium even before the show has begun by way of the displayed dramatic set designed by Ruari Murchinson with lighting by Tim Mitchell creating the effect of snow falling on a grand scale. Every child being shown this is exciting, an event happening where they are.
Bill Alexander, the director, seems to have the inclinations of young children all worked out, knowing exactly what attracts will attract attention even in terms of props beyond the action. The little boy who makes friends with the snowman has model airplanes hanging in his bedroom, there are brightly coloured hanging balls like balloons a giant light switch to switch on to escape from the everyday to magic. Also a scene about the pleasures of playing in a sink.
Mr Alexander in particular understands very young children have a short attention span, he whizzes each scene past them, particularly in the first half so they never get bored. There’s a procession of happenings and characters turning up on stage to entertain. Not just The Snowman but exotic fruit emerging from a giant fridge, dancing reindeer, woodland animals, a characterful cat, a teddy bear, a red toy train whizzing across the stage, Father Christmas. There’s also some dancers in sparkles including an Ice Princess and Jack Frost. Everything is relatable to the children. Including the little boy at the heart of the show, engagingly played and beautifully danced by George Nearn Stuart. (This role is played three child actors.)
The choreography by Robert North brilliantly expresses characterisation as well as liveliness in even the smallest roles. The Snowman in particular becomes more and more likeable because of the way he dances.
The flying scenes to the famous song, Walking in the Air, occur at the end of the first act before the interval and at the beginning of the second. The wonder of the flying accompanied by the beauty of the music and lighting is given plenty of time, not rushed at all. The reaction of the children in the audience is its own delight.
If you have a very small child who needs to lunch or nap you could arrange to leave at the interval having experienced plenty of joy and wonder and fun. On the other hand you might decide once there to stay anyway.
The second act contains more ensemble dancing and action, becomes a little more narrative, meaning the show can suit not just the very young.
As for the grown up’s in the audience, it’s an enjoyable show for them too. The staff at the Peacock Theatre are fantastic from the moment you walk through the entrance wondering how to manage the stairs with the little ones and a pushchair. There’s ushers inside dedicated to carrying your pushchair and a buggy park. Snacks and drinks are on sale to please children. The atmosphere inside the theatre is relaxed and child friendly too, no need to worry you have the most restless toddler.
The children at the theatre bring happiness to the show. Excited by this red plush seated place somehow turning out to be their world, other children there, all doing the same thing in the same place together.
I borrowed a seventeen month old busy toddler from my family and he loved every single minute of the whole experience. (And so did I.)
This production of The Snowman is a fantastic introduction to the theatre as enjoyment. Fortunate are the children who have the opportunity to go to The Peacock and begin a relationship with the magic and energy of theatre and music this way. How terrific is that among all the fun?
Review by Marian Kennedy
The enchanting festive favourite, The Snowman, returns for a magical 22nd year. Based up the book by Raymond Briggs and produced by John Coates, this charming stage adaptation is guaranteed to transport you to a world of wintery adventure.
The Snowman 2019 — Birmingham Repertory Theatre
21 Nov 2019 – 5 Jan 2020
Peacock Theatre, Portugal Street, Holborn, WC2A 2HT