I think everyone will agree that the idea of Christmas without a flying snowman is a horrific and offensive one and, well, actually it’s just blasphemy. Every year Raymond Briggs’s warming yet heart-breaking tale of a boy’s early Christmas morning escapades with his well-dressed snowman friend has brought light into the hearts of children and grown-ups alike; for over ten years, it has similarly delighted fans seeing it on stage in a production by the Birmingham Repertory Theatre.
Being in an auditorium full of very young, very vocal children would usually make me somewhat unhappy, but sitting among them through this extraordinarily festive and magical realising of the classic tale, I felt genuinely happy that I was able to share it. They were quite possibly the most honest and enthusiastic audience I have ever born witness to, and it was a delight to see a new generation devouring something I loved just as much as a child.
The set has been imagined as a snow globe, with various scene changes initially including (most impressively) the young protagonist’s home, complete with a split-level living room and bedroom. It shifts between various rooms and areas that most will be familiar with from the film and book, as well as the North Pole (of course). Designer Ruari Murchison has done wondrous things with this show and it has to be said, even those that aren’t fans (say whaaaat?) will love the overall magical feel. The sets are just stunning, with each change creating something completely different, and the blocky props appear as though straight from a children’s picture book. Tim Mitchell’s lighting creates a nostalgic feel, closely resembling that hysterical phase on Christmas Eve when we had to sleep but couldn’t: all dim, unearthly and eerie tones that make you wholly believe that yes, snowmen do come to life.
The cast have obviously all been well-trained in the art of entertaining children – all exaggerated moves and wide, scary smiles – but I very much liked all contributions, especially when they become snowmen from all walks of life, dancing around like crazy. Edward Stevens’ Snowman glides around the stage like an utterly delicious dream. His relationship with today’s little boy James, played by the very talented Joe Sheridan, is a tender and comical one – as it should be.
This is a traditional story that will forever represent the spirit of Christmas for both children and their families. Sitting with a million trillion kids through The Snowman has finally got ol’ Scrooge here in the mood for Christmas crackers and mince pies, but has simultaneously brought about a feeling of desperate envy to once again be five years old, putting out my stocking before dancing around my bedroom until I finally pass out. Ahhh memories.
The Snowman is playing at the Peacock theatre until 5 January 2014. For more information and tickets, see the Sadler’s Wells website.