The story is familiar, one of Hans Christian Andersen's best, about two children growing up together. They share everything in life, including a garden. Then Kay is captured by the Snow Queen and Gerda must rescue him. On the way she meets a strange assortment of characters, and by the end of her journey she finds she has grown up.
In this performance the movement is superb. Seven actors populate several magical kingdoms with a whole host of colourful characters, who are brought to life through their movements. Unruly demons scamper, a reindeer cavorts, crows strut, the prince whirls and tumbles on his acrobatic cloth rope. Not only are the movements beautiful, they're all individual and perfectly suited to the characters. Then of course there's the Snow Queen with her dramatic oriental dance and music. Elisabetta di Terlizzi even manages to look Japanese. The "duet" as she attacks Kay from across the stage is perfectly synchronised: she lashes out and he contorts in pain.
Individual elements are spectacular and magical. The snow shimmers, the music changes from electronic squeaks to blasts of Bizet, and the robbers in the wood are genuinely menacing. There is a wide range of moods, and this leaves some aspects of this production feeling neither one thing nor the other. The play opens with mad chief demon telling fart jokes, which doesn't sit well with some of the darker scenes. It feels as if the director has not decided whether this is a play for children or adults, and it switches too quickly. Similarly the play is in more than one language (not surprising, perhaps, considering the cast)! This is interesting but doesn't help the coherence of the play. It is either extremely clever of Ludovico to have perfectly captured the feeling of in-between-ness which characterises adolescence, or it's annoyingly indecisive.
For me the problem with the play is the interpretation of the fairy-tale. Ludovico focuses heavily on the journey, to the detriment of its conclusion. The final showdown is an anticlimax, but so is the original capture. I thought this was a story of the seductive power of power, that Kay is fascinated with the Snow Queen and delighted to be captured by her; he only discovers too late what he has to sacrifice. I would like more focus on both the seduction and the final battle, and more change in Kay and Gerda, more sign they've grown up in the course of the play. It is interesting to find that something as simple as a fairy-tale can be interpreted so differently.
I left feeling a strange mixture of dissatisfaction and delight, which may be exactly what the director intended.