Snow Queen New Wolsey's panto aims to engage viewers at home

Four actors from The Snow Queen singing in a line

Christmas is here, The New Wolsey Theatre brings some festive cheer with their rock'n'roll panto The Snow Queen which is playing to both audiences in the auditorium and at home - Credit: Mike Kwasniak

Christmas and panto make a perfect partnership – just like rock and roll – and the New Wolsey Theatre has long been adept at bringing all these elements together in one great seasonal feast.

For a while it looked that the Covid pandemic may have robbed us of this vital piece of festive entertainment but the Ipswich theatre have dug deep and come up with a way of bringing their acclaimed rock’n’roll panto to audiences – both in the theatre and at home – just at a time when it is most needed.

This year’s show, The Snow Queen, was designed over the summer to exploit multi-camera technology to place the viewer in the heart of the action.

Kay and Gerda meeting each other

Adam Langstaff and Lucy Wells as Kay and Gerda in The Snow Queen, the New Wolsey's Rock'n'Roll panto which is playing online and in the theatre during the run-up to Christmas - Credit: Mike Kwasniak

For actors Adam Langstaff and Lucy Wells – both rock’n’roll panto veterans – it feels great to be back on stage. It’s Adam’s first work since March and Lucy’s first indoor theatre work this year. “It’s great to be back again,” they agree. 

“It’s great to be part of a company again, working with people you know,” Lucy says.

They said that rehearsals were draining because they were not ‘match fit’ not having performed all year and while much of the production was second nature, there was enough that was different to stretch the mental muscles.

Adam explains: “The performance embraces both the socially distanced audience in the theatre and those at home. We want to engage everyone. The idea is that we use the technology, we actively use the cameras as part of the performance. We didn’t want to put one camera at the back of the auditorium and point it at the stage – we have five or six cameras and we incorporate them into the show.

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“There are set pieces which we play straight to camera which bring us straight into people’s living rooms.”

Lucy reveals that during the first half there are moments when props are gathered from people’s homes to be used in the second half of the evening. “There are pre-show videos recorded by previous dames which make it pretty clear what will be needed during the course of the show.”

The pair said that the cast of five means that the show is more intimate this year but the action has been boosted by locally filmed videos which have been dropped into the narrative to give the show extra sparkle.

This year’s panto includes such iconic songs as: Let’s Get Loud, If I Had a Hammer, I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles), I Can See Clearly Now and Beyonce’s  Love on Top.

“It has a warm, friendly feel to it and the music is as good as ever. We still play and perform all the songs. The only thing is different is that we have a couple of backing tracks this year to boost the sound, simply because we don’t have enough people to reproduce the sound like we normally do,” says Lucy.

Snow Queen in her palace

Natasha Lewis as The Snow Queen in the New Wolsey's latest Rock'n'Roll panto - Credit: Mike Kwasniak

She adds that the production has already created a wonderful sense of camaraderie with all the actors staying in one local B&B and the production staff staying in another down the road.

Disney’s contemporary classic Frozen was based on The Snow Queen and Adam says the show will have elements that will be familiar to viewers of all ages.

“The action takes place in little town of Ballbroken; Gerda is about to be crowned the Queen of May, and Dame Sigrid Smorgasbord has prepared a magnificent May Day feast. But, Sigrid’s young son Kay is kidnapped by the Snow Queen and Gerda and Dame Sigrid have to trek to the Frozen North to rescue him.

“That’s the show in a nutshell plus all that wonderful music that the New Wolsey Rock’n’Roll panto is famous for.”

In addition to Adam Langstaff and Lucy Wells, this year’s cast also includes such familiar names as James Haggie, Steve Simmonds and Natasha Lewis as the eponymous Snow Queen.

Tickets, from £25, are on sale on the New Wolsey website The Snow Queen runs until Thursday December 24.