HANS CHRISTIAN Andersen’s classic story, The Snow Queen, gets a daring modern makeover from Galway Actors Workshop in a new production at the Town Hall studio from Wednesday December 9 to Saturday 12 at 8.30pm.
In The Snow Queen, Gerda undertakes an epic journey to rescue the boy she loves, Kai, from the clutches of the beautiful, but sinister, Snow Queen, meeting a colourful cast of characters along the way. In Galway Actors Workshop’s richly imagined re-telling, devised by the company, scripted by Sarah O’Toole and Donnacha Bushe, and directed by Darragh O’Brien, Andersen's story is brought into the modern milieu of social media, job bridge schemes, raves, and DJs.
“To begin with, we all read the story then worked on things like the themes, setting and what we wanted to say,” director Darragh O’Brien tells me when I meet him and Sarah O’Toole for a lunchtime coffee. “Andersen’s story and the play are both about perception, how people see the world and themselves. The lens we found to modernise the story has been social media; we all have a way of presenting ourselves to the world and these days that’s often via Facebook.”
“In the original story there is this magic mirror that distorts people’s perceptions,” Sarah O’Toole adds. “It shatters and shards of it get into people’s eyes and makes them see things in a skewed way. It can be a metaphor for losing your innocence so we looked at it as pertaining to people’s relationships to social media and their images there. We ask what’s the difference between your real self and the version you put up on social media.”
I ask how the elements of Andersen’s original tale are worked into this new tapestry. “We actually follow the story quite faithfully,” O’Toole replies. “All the main characters are still there. The river becomes Gerda’s friend Shannon, the raven is this sleazy DJ Ray-ven and so on. The story all happens over one night when Gerda goes to this party to find Kai who is on a job bridge scheme working for a boss called Crystal. Gerda can’t find him and she meets all these other characters who are from the fairytale but in modern representation. All the stages of Andersen’s story are followed – but I won’t give away anything about our ending!”
“We are going to mess with the ending a tad,” O’Brien adds, deciding to give away just a little bit. “The ending of the fairytale isn’t this moment where Gerda finds Kai and then everything is rosy. There are different ways you can interpret it; like in the original Kai runs off with the Snow Queen and maybe he liked not being around Gerda anymore and liked this new environment, but then he is torn from it and brought back to the real world. Or do you look at it that Gerda saves him from himself and the Snow Queen and they all live happily ever after? We felt we had to complicate that ending a bit and hook in some of these other possible interpretations”
“These fairytales sometimes shoe-horn a Christian morality onto archetypes that have a much more interesting, wilder, life of their own so it is interesting in that way too,” O’Toole observes. “Gerda and Kai go back to their little town and they are all grown up but the people they meet along the way are almost more interesting. In the story Gerda changes everyone she meets but in the story she is just ‘I love Kai, I love Kai’ and how do you deconstruct that –is she someone who can’t take ‘no’ for an answer? And the fact she does set out to find Kai means that she goes through things she wouldn’t normally experience.”
The Snow Queen is perfect winter fare and a seasonal reminder that fairytales are not just for children. The cast is Deana McGuire, Ronan Cassidy, Megan Vine, Vera Kilgallon, Brian May, Leticia Diaz, and Aisling Courtney.
Tickets are available from the Town Hall on 091 - 569777 or www.tht.ie