Theatre reviews: The Snow Queen, Dundee Rep | Mammy Goose, Tron, Glasgow

Sophie Reid as The Snow Queen at Dundee Rep. PIC: Tommy Ga-Ken Wan
Sophie Reid as The Snow Queen at Dundee Rep. PIC: Tommy Ga-Ken Wan
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Dundee is a city on a roll at the moment; and if you are not lucky enough to live there already, then it’s well worth heading there not only to visit the new V&A museum, but in order to watch a new twin star emerge in the Scottish Christmas show heavens, as writer-composers Scott Gilmour and Claire Mackenzie, also known as Noisemaker, launch their pitch-perfect new version of The Snow Queen, on stage at Dundee Rep.

The Snow Queen, Dundee Rep ****

Mammy Goose, The Tron, Glasgow ***

Like many of this year’s Christmas shows, The Snow Queen features the image of a brave girl on a quest, as Chiara Sparkes’s gorgeous Gerda sets off into the fierce blizzard that has encircled her town ever since the terrible breaking of the magic mirror, to find her lost friend Kai, who has been taken by the Snow Queen to her ice palace at the top of the world.

In Andrew Panton’s gorgeous production, with truly magical Nordic design by Richard Evans, every element of the reimagined story fits together perfectly around Gerda’s central journey – one that easily accommodates a memorable and unexpected twist in the end of the tale, without missing a beat. The show is full of fine new songs that make perfect sense on first hearing, some of them beautifully influenced by the Sami music of the world’s Arctic people; and it also features a world-class ensemble performance from the Dundee Rep company in outstanding form, in a beautiful, generous and richly involving Christmas show, for children and adults alike.

There’s also plenty of festive fun at the Tron in Glasgow as Johnny McKnight writes, directs and stars in a brand-new version of Mother Goose that pulls no punches, in presenting the exceptionally complex panto tale of the kindly woman who wins unexpected wealth when her beloved goose starts to lay golden eggs, only to fall victim to her own fatal flaw of vanity, and sell her soul to the villain, in return for a second chance of youth and beauty.

Set in a Maryhill full of budget supermarkets and people in shell-suits, the show nonetheless slightly lacks the satirical edge of some earlier Mc-Knight-Tron pantos; and it’s painful to watch Julie Wilson Nimmo, as the goose, mugging her way through a dismal comic role which consists mainly of being obtusely convinced that the two sweet gay male lovers – Darren Brownlie and Ryan Ferry, in lovely form – are actually in love with her.

Yet McKnight delivers a memorable performance in the central role, despite a rather odd decision to keep his fat suit on throughout, and avoid the full glorious transformation scene. And as Tron romps go, Mammy Goose remains merry as ever, thanks not least to some exceptionally glamorous designs by Kenny Miller; and, of course, to every ancient panto device in the book, from “behind you” to some brilliant word-play, made new for 2018, and gallivanting through yet another irrepressible Mc-Knight Christmas show. - Joyce McMillan

The Snow Queen is at Dundee Rep until 31 December; Mammy Goose is at the Tron Theatre, Glasgow until 6 January.