Gallery: The Snow Queen dances on stage

Exciting, acrobatic European theatre is coming to Bury's Theatre Royal.

Andrew Clarke

Exciting, acrobatic European theatre is coming to Bury's Theatre Royal. Arts Editor Andrew Clarke spoke to Colin Blumenau from the Theatre Royal and production director Teresa Ludovico.

Spectacular dance, theatre, circus skills and dramatic story-telling all combine in Teatro Kismet's critically acclaimed production of

The Snow Queen at the Theatre Royal, Bury St Edmunds.


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This is a rare opportunity to revisit a production which was hailed as groundbreaking and visually stunning when it made its first visit to the area last year. The Italian-based Teatro Kismet company visited the New Wolsey Theatre in Ipswich last February to stage their multi-disciplined fairytale. Colin Blumenau, artistic director, of the Theatre Royal, said that he is delighted to be taking the show because the Italian-based company have a long relationship with the Bury St Edmunds and he was saddened when he had to miss out on last year's tour because of the refurbishment work at the theatre.

He said: “The last time Teatro Kismet came to the Theatre Royal Bury St. Edmunds was in 2005 with their production of Bella e Bestia (Beauty and the Beast). The production was as beautiful as it was spectacular and the audience feedback we received was unanimously enthusiastic. Our audiences were thrilled to see children's work from Europe which demonstrated such high standards of both artistry and entertainment.”

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Snow Queen director Teresa Ludovico said that although the show as billed as a children's show, it was designed to appeal to the child that still resides within all adults “It is not a story for children in the sense of age. A production like The Snow Queen is for everybody. It is a story to which everyone can relate on a different level. It has simplicity, in order for a child to understand it easily, but it also contains questions that concern the adults.”

One of the joys of the Teatro Kismet company lays in the fact that the actors also possessed a range of other performance skills which they incorporate into the production which provides audiences with that wow factor. Although Tersea is based in Italy, she recruits her cast from around the world. She said: “Often I search for actors and actresses that are able to perform acrobatics . The Snow Queen has two new acrobats to whom I entrusted the scene of the dream of the prince and princess. Hans Christian Andersen's story, which I adapted, is set in seven stories, seven dreams - the passage from childhood to adolescence. Some actors perform acrobatics to keep the dimension of the extraordinary in the story.”

This sense of the fantastic is heightened by the slightly surreal props and the dramatic lighting which gave the performances a sense of other-worldliness. Teresa said: “I play a lot on sizes, using tall flowers and other fantastic elements, so that the child-spectator will be taken on a journey which is far removed from his or her everyday life.”

This is something that Colin believes makes Teatro Kismet unique and which allows audiences to enjoy the same performance on a variety of different levels. “The company incorporates physical theatre, aerobatics, dance and music to create a total theatrical experience with very strong storytelling binding these elements together. It is truly world class theatre that both young and old can both enjoy, and we are certain that audiences from across the region will delight in being able to see work of this standard.”

He said that it was fitting that the restored Georgian theatre which is doing so much to restore the forgotten repertoire of the past was giving equal focus on the theatre of the future. He added that international partnerships also gave the productions a sense of scope and imagination - particularly in the arena of youth theatre. “Here in the Britain we don't currently benefit enough from visiting international work. It is important for arts organisations to establish links in Europe and further afield - we hope to continue our relationship with Kismet to receive future productions on tour in the UK. They offer a real example of how work for children and young people can be made with the same attention to detail and the same high standards as the very best in theatre for older audiences. We are really delighted that the relationship between our two companies is developing in this way.”

The Snow Queen was developed to mark the 200th anniversary of the birth of Hans Christian Andersen. “This English speaking production of The Snow Queen is destined to enchant and excite children while the sophisticated use of symbolism, imagery and poetic text highlight deeper elements, allowing adults to enjoy this atmospheric work.”

The Snow Queen follows the heroic adventures of Gerda as she goes in search of her beloved friend Kay, captured and taken by The Snow Queen to her icy palace at the end of the earth. Teresa added: “The classic story has an enduring appeal evoking universal themes such as rites of passage, love and our human necessity for warmth.”

She said that the journey that Gerda embarks on gives the story an Alice In Wonderland quality. “I always encourage the actors to act out their words primarily with use of their body. Even if I directed a play by Shakespeare or Pirandello, I wouldn't change my approach.

“For me, my role as director is to create theatre, which means the space that I discover in between the words. The writer writes a text. I try to find the action of the text.” Teatro Kismet employs a range of theatrical styles and techniques including aerial acrobatics, dance, martial arts, and bold caricature. The dramatic use of lighting, designed by Vincent Longuemare, and a soundtrack ranging from Carmen to Kenji Kawai help create the distinctive mood.

Previous UK tours include Little Red Riding Hood (1994), Pinocchio (1996), Beauty and the Beast (2002), Little Mysteries (2004) and The Snow Queen (2007) - a co-production with Athens Festival. They also created the first full theatrical production of Nino Rota's opera for children The Swineherd Prince with the Fondazione Lirico Sinfonica Petruzzelli in Bari. This production was presented at Birmingham REP in a collaboration with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (2007). In Italy they have just premiered a new adaptation of Moliere's The Hypochondriac.

For Teresa Ludovico she finds a lot of freedom in creating works for children which have wide-reaching resonances for adults as well. It helps sidestep the strait-jacket of conventional adult drama. “A child shares the same characteristics as an adult. They have a spiritual life, an emotional life, an intellect. The only difference is the lack of experience. Theatre for children is a great responsibility. Children require clarity and simplicity. The symbols must be recognizable. Therefore the selection of a symbol is a great responsibility, because it reveals for a child a world that is far away, but that is also within.

“Therefore, in a story as simple as The Snow Queen movement needs to be very clear and powerful, because it is important that the stories connect to all audiences, regardless of language or age.”

The Snow Queen by Teatro Kismet is being staged at Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds from April 6-8. Tickets are available on www.theatreroyal.org or 01284 769505.

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