The Snow Queen at Bristol’s Tobacco Factory Theatre

Theatre Review: the Snow Queen. Tobacco Factory Theatre, Bristol

‘I don’t believe in magic anymore,’ snapped Gerda’s friend Kaj, after a splinter of the evil Troll’s mirror entered his eye – and the children in the audience loved it as he went into a massive sulk stomping about the Tobacco Factory Theatre’s stage. One moment a morose teenager the next a crow or a robber Joey Hickman slipped seamlessly into contrasting characters along with the ensemble cast. It was this ability of all the cast of the Tobacco Factory’s The Snow Queen to flip in and out of character that grips from the moment the Narrator (Abayomi Oniyde) pulled a sleigh into the space at the theatre. A cast of all the talents as they switched between roles, playing various musical instruments and creating a theatrical body greater than the sum of its parts.

Cast clockwise is Stefanie Mueller, Samantha Sutherland, Natisha Williams, Abayomi Oniyide, Joey Hickman and Alex Murdoch

Joey Hickman as Kaj and Natisha Williams as Gerda were the dark and light, the positive and the negative at the heart of Hans Christian Anderson’s Christian morality fairy tale about friendship and helping each other. They took the audience on a journey of redemption and forgiveness reminding us all to be good and kind and to help others. Alex Murdoch (robber child), Samantha Sutherland (Aunt Rose) and Stefanie Mueller (the eponymous Snow Queen in her sleek white gown with its long poet sleeves) completed the troupe delighting the packed house with song, movement, visual wit, humour and storytelling.

Director Alex Byrne together with assistant Sophie Cottle created a masterclass of creative drama with special mention to Kasia Zaremba-Byrne’s choreography and movement. From the over excited crows in their mortar boards and black gowns or the grumpy and kindly reindeer, to the penny-short-of-a-shilling robbers who planned to turn Gerda into a stew, each story was unfolded with creativity and originality. All soaked up by the family audience (including the very young) who joined in Joey Hickman’s songs and some of Rina Vergano’s words as the cast made friends with those willing to engage.

A multi-purpose sleigh is used as a door and a den during the show

Coupled with evocative lighting by Trui Malten and Jon Fiber’s sound and Dean Sudron’s production values this is a triumph of live theatre in the round. Whether it was ebullient Abayomi Oniyde’s narrator bookending the show or the frankly disturbingly creepy Aunty Rose (Samantha Sutherland) or a wonderfully innocent and unaffected Gerda as she flies to the North Pole on a bicycle made for two, this is a five star show that delights and inspires. It’s what live theatre at its best is all about.

Harry Mottram

The show runs to January 15, 2023.

For tickets and more details visit


The Snow Queen is a Tobacco Factory Theatres, New International Encounter and Cambridge Junction co-production.