Tuesday, 6 November 2012

The Snow Spider - review

Written by: Dombo (@DomOJFryer)

Where's Dom gone?
Ovalhouse, London
Was Dom fond?

It is an odd thing to find yourself surrounded by people a third of your size. Yet when watching IO Theatre Company's new adaptation of acclaimed author Jenny Nimmo's The Snow Spider, this is what happens. Children's theatre seems to be fluent with the Zeitgeist right now in Britain, with seemingly more shows popping up than seen before.

As the audience walks into the stifling heat of the small black box of the Ovalhouse downstairs, it is hard to imagine any form of snow penetrating the room - you probably will have to shed a few layers. Florence Hazard has done a wonderful job of transforming the simple space into something much more; over the two hours the versatile set is two houses, a school, a forest and a large mountain - I don't think I could walk these hypothetical distances in two hours, let alone transform into them.

As the play opens, Nain (Anne-Marie Piazza) tells us of the ancient welsh magicians and how, maybe, the magic still lives. As the story progresses we find Gwyn (Joey Hickman) on his birthday being told of this magic by his Nain. Much to his parents' derision, Gwyn tries to find the extent to which he has these powers, ultimately trying to bring back his sister Bethan (Catrin Livsey) with the help of the Snow Spider (a puppet played by numerous hands). Whilst there is no stand out performer, collectively the ensemble is incredibly strong, displaying the kind of chemistry you usually see in Mr. Edmunds' year 11 science class.

It is also clear that these performers are massively talented in physical theatre and musically trained; the music which accompanies the piece throughout is excellent and creates a cinematic element to the experience - James Lark, a stalwart of IO, has done a fantastic job as composer. The music also wonderfully creates a magical atmosphere and helps to draw in the young children in the audience.

A huge triumph in this piece is the lighting by Pablo Fernandez Baz, who has evidently worked hard to design some incredible effects. The audience is treated to all the seasons through the push of a button. 

While there are many treats to be had in this piece, it has a tendency to drag a tad after the interval, at times losing momentum and perhaps the attention of the audience.

If you're looking for an inventive and creative treat for the family, this show definitely has its selling points; definitely worth seeing - if IO discover the magic they're looking for.

This production runs until 17 November 2012. 

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