Pros: An outstanding ensemble build a wonderful world full of magic.
Cons: Can get very full on in such a small space.
Io Theatre Company’s The Snow Spider is a delightful tale of a young boy from a family frozen by grief, who discovers, with the help of his eccentric grandmother, that he is a magician. The play, based on the book The Snow Spider by Jenny Nimmo, is set in Wales and written with Welsh mythology in mind.
When we meet Gwyn it his ninth birthday, but it’s a day rarely celebrated in his rural Welsh farmhouse. On that date four years previously, his sister disappeared on the mountains during a storm. Gwyn’s father father blames him for her disappearance and makes no attempt to hide his disdain for his son.
On this birthday, Grandmother Nain brings Gwyn an array of objects to test his magical powers. The play follows him as he uses each in turn to try to bring back his missing sister and repair his broken family. Included in the objects is a burned wooden horse with a tag instructing him never to use it. Now why you’d give a nine-year-old boy a wooden horse that could cause the destruction of the world, I don’t know— but yet, there’s the boy, there’s the horse, and naturally Gwyn makes an impulsive decision to use the horse and ends up releasing an evil being into his town. It’s then up to Gwyn and the mysterious (and not necessarily trustworthy) Eirlys to save the day and rebuild the bridges between Gwyn and his father.
This is a charming production and the culmination of the story is a delight. The ensemble is outstanding. The fluidity of movement – particularly when acting out the snow spider—is absolutely flawless. The cast members are all multi-talented; each acts, sings and plays instruments. They are at their finest when providing a background soundtrack to the play. The storm noises they create sound as if the audience is being sucked into the maelstrom; the noises for the barnyard are delightful and amusing. The set is but one floor and some crates but it serves well as everything it needs to be: farmhouse, school yard, Grandma’s house, and mountains.
The acting is very good and there are no weak links in the company. Joey Hickman is enjoyable (and surprisingly believable) alternating between the youthful energy and sulky nature of a young boy, albeit one with the weight of the world on his shoulders. Anne Marie Piazza absolutely shines as Nain. Her voice is wonderfully suited to the singing she does and she handles the eccentricity of the role in a very humorous manner.
Because of the closeness of the audience to the stage, and the fact that this production is set in a very small space, some of the storm elements can feel a little full-on, and a lot of the shouting is perhaps too loud for the space, though this does replicate the experience of being in a small stone farmhouse.
There’s definitely magic in this heart-warming production, and it’s all down to a very talented cast. The Io Theatre Company is a fantastic storyteller and this is a production for both kids and adults that should not be missed.
Author: Jenny Nimmo, adapted by Delyth Jones and James Lark
Director: Delyth Jones
Producer: IO Theatre Company
Musical Director: James Lark
Movement Director: Shona Morris
Lighting Designer: Sherry Coenan
Box Office: 020 7240 6283
Booking Link: http://www.tristanbatestheatre.co.uk/tbt_performanceListing.asp?classname=spider
Booking Until: 10th January 2014