La Petite Gerda

Footsbarn Theatre
Assembly George Square Studios

La Petite Gerda

This is a beautiful rendition of the Hans Christian Andersen’s Snow Queen, as we follow children Gerda and Kay being brought up like siblings by Babushka.

At the circus of Tanglefort, their lives appear idyllic and filled with the love and care a grandmother should give. Babushka, as all the elder generation do, warn their young charges of the dangers of the world outside, particularly the Snow Queen. And so, one winter’s evening, captured by the snow and its appeal, Kay goes out wandering to find the Snow Queen who starts to freeze his heart.

Over the next few months, Kay becomes less and less the likeable companion Gerda loved and starts to display elements of a personality that shows his heart has been taken. Eventually, he leaves and makes his way to the Snow Queen, leaving Gerda behind. But Gerda is made of stern stuff and decides to ride the waves of the river, gather the wisdom of those she meets upon her way including a crow, a thief and a sorcerer, until she finds him and wins his heart back. The Snow Queen now vanquished, we return to the way it was before.

Footsbarn has one hell of a reputation. Here they have pared things down to doing what they have a clear aptitude for: telling the story simply, plainly and with great skill. This script works beautifully with enough jeopardy to keep the young amongst us engaged and sufficient moves and directorial expertise to keep the rest of us—the bigger children—on board. The narrative shows a deft hand not just at fairytales but also at how it ought to be played out.

The ensemble nature of the piece shows that each of our performers, in the spirit of the company, is multi-skilled, talking turns in accents and music which showcase the way theatre ought to be delivered: with care and respect.

The technical addition of not just the moveable set but also the costumes helps a great deal. We can often be left with a couple of chairs and a table to imagine many different things at the Fringe—thus making the get-out easier—but here, the elaborate nature of the costumes in particular shows a clear understanding of how their storytelling needs to have a connection to us.

That skill is added to by some deft puppetry and music which has the tinge of the folk tale, the accordion of travelling folk and the delight of making the whole enterprise one which really sparkles.

I have waited long to see Footsbarn. I was not disappointed as this is a children’s show which really does work for the younger audience as well as do the one thing which tales should do: get an audience told accurately and with great skill. I loved my time there and hope that it is not another 15 years before they return to us and show us some more of their great skill on a stage. From them, we could learn a great deal.

Reviewer: Donald C Stewart

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