A stage show for over twenty years now, The Snowman has arrived at Southampton at the Mayflower Theatre. Directed by Bill Alexander, the production is based off of Raymond Brigg’s original book and Dianne Jackson’s TV movie. The Snowman is an entertaining affair for the whole family, recreating iconic scenes from the book as well as adding new content for the stage.
Initially, a striking element of the show is the set design. The story starts in the family home of the boy with his mother and father but soon transports the characters to fantastical places like the North Pole, where the boy and the Snowman are joined by reindeer, penguins and other surprises. Ruari Murchison is Head of Design and he must be congratulated for his work here, creating a distinct contrast between sets and making them not only look but feel different. The look of the Snowman himself doesn’t have the same adorable factor as the book does, as this version is notably thinner. The movement is reminiscent and expressive as the film version, with big, large movements as the Snowman discovers the world. Howard Blake’s famous ‘Walking in the Air’ is of course included here, as the Snowman and the boy fly across the stage. The wire work isn’t hidden well but kids will be amazed by the iconic moment and the magic that the scene possesses.
The show packs a real emotional punch, especially for those unaware of the ending. Kids were heard crying in the final moments, eliciting sympathy from the audience members. This is possible due to Cameron Sutherland in the role of the boy, in which he was quite possibly the star of the show. Sutherland had no words to express his emotions but his body language and facial expression displayed the joy and happiness his character went through over the course of the play. Three child actors play the role while the show is in town but Sutherland displayed how much fun the role can be and had the audience relate to the emotions he portrayed.
Audience members also had fun with the show, brothers Zed and Zach, (ages four and two) described the play as ‘really good’, while Matilda (aged four) saying how the dancing fruit was her favourite scene, a new addition to the original source material that entertained the children in the audience. The dance numbers are unique additions to the play and unfortunately this is where the production does begin to outstay its welcome. This is notable towards the end, with several dance sequences, one after the other, which only continue with the addition of Jack Frost who’s introduced towards the end of the play. While these are exciting upon their arrival and have elements of humour to them, the dances grow stale and old. It might be enjoyable for children but adults will notice the repetitive nature of the dance.
The Snowman is all in all, a family play which anyone of any age can enjoy. The performances are all great, the movement and expression allowing the actors to go big with their roles. The set design always looks fantastic, giving the impression the Snowman and the boy really have flown to the North Pole at times. The final twenty minutes feels like it’s just padding to reach a certain length of time but apart from that, The Snowman always keeps you entertained. December has only just come and gone but The Snowman will get you into the Christmas spirit all over again!
The Snowman runs at The Mayflower until 17th January 2016 – details here: https://www.mayflower.org.uk/Whats_on/TheSnowman2016