Association of Community Theatre


by Alan Frayn

Directed by Neil Tranmer and Angela Foulds

Musical Director: Jonathan Chalker

Dances arranged  & Choreographed by Lynn McCheyne with  Amanda Swinburn and Jenna Maden

Burnley Pantomime Society


This is the first time I have seen The Snow Queen as a pantomime.  The story is one of Hans Andersen’s darker tales which Alan Frayn has fashioned into a family pantomime. Burnley Pantomime Society had certainly pulled out all of the stops to produce this highly professional presentation of the Hans Andersen pantomime story.


The Snow Queen sweeps through the streets on snowy nights, looking in at the windows, her breath leaving strange icy patterns on the glass. “Yes, I’ve seen them”, says Gerda, but little does she know her best friend, Kai is about to be spirited away to the evil Snow Queen’s Ice Palace. And so, as the spring thaw arrives, Gerda's quest begins – an adventurous journey from Denmark to the frozen north, passing through every season and encountering a host of colourful characters. Magic, mayhem, singing and dancing, gave us a fun-filled evening.


We were first introduced to Fairy Snowdrop, the good character, played by Louise Young.  Her every entrance was signalled by a whoosh of light and we soon realised that she was going to be a force to be reckoned with. Let the battle between good and evil begin.  With her wonderful costume, echoing her name and the promise of spring, and her magic wand which could knock out the most evil of assailants, Louise soon got the audience on her side.  Her wonderful head-dress by No-Eyed Theatre, was the very essence of spring, and Louise’s sunny disposition promised the coming warmth of the evening.


In the eponymous role, Leanne Bradshaw was excellent as the pantomime’s evil character. Her delivery and singing were of the highest order. Commanding the stage every time she appeared, to the boos from the audience, her every word could be understood and the scorn in her voice as she said “Global warming” would have put Donald Trump to shame.  With her beautiful costume, an absolutely knock-out head-dress, again by No Eyed Theatre, and wonderful make-up, the Snow Queen was to prove to be a real challenge to the good characters.  Would she triumph in her quest to take over the seasons?  From the outset, Leanne was the Snow Queen.  An excellent portrayal of this evil pantomime character.

Her henchman, Henrick, although a minor role, was extremely well played by Leighton Hunt.  With his constantly forgetting which leg was to be dragged, the interplay between him and Queen was finely honed comedy.


Because the story of the Snow Queen can seem quite convoluted, we had Hans Christian Andersen, in the guise of Martin Chadwick, narrating the links within the plot line.  Excellent delivery gave life to the words on the page being enacted on the stage.  And so we were introduced to the hero and heroine, Gerda and Kai, played by Laura Kay and Gary Leonard respectively.  Laura was radiant with love for Kai and she proved to be the heroine that everyone wanted to win in the end.  With superb diction, lovely stage presence and a beautiful singing voice, Laura soon had everyone on her side. Gary’s characterisation was to come into its own later in the story but for now, he was Gerda’s best friend.


On to the scene bounded the comedy character in the guise of Helmut, played in ebullient style by Jonathan Pye.  With Jonathan, giving full weight to all the awful puns of the story (think of his name, for example), the children in the audience absolutely loved him.  Dressed in a very colourful costume, Jonathan never stopped, warming up the audience ready for the introduction of the pantomime dame.  Here, the dame was Granny Annie Fannie played by Kevin Kay.  Kevin was a wonderful pantomime dame, never too far over the top, always in total control, and totally at ease with his repartee with the audience, and especially with Wayne, an audience member, who proved to be the butt of many of the jokes. This was as good a dame portrayal as I have seen. Excellent. Every entrance seemed to herald a new costume, and there were many.

One of the many highlights in the show was a scene in the sweetshop when a very fast routine, with a play on the words of famous chocolate brands, nearly brought the house down.  The Dame’s ennui as bar after bar of chocolate were thrown to Helmut, was very funny indeed.  These were put into a shopping trolley which rapidly filled with sweets, much to the delight of the children in the audience.


Meanwhile, Kai (Gary Leonard) had fallen under the spell of the wicked Snow Queen and had been whisked off to the North Pole to be housed in her Ice Palace.  This is where Gary certainly came into his own and proved what a fine actor he is, morphing from a nice disingenuous lad into the complete opposite, taking on the worst attributes of his captor.  His was a lovely performance. Well done.


Gerda, meanwhile, with the help of Fairy Snowdrop and Blossom, the Spring Flower Lady, nicely portrayed by Kayleigh Hindle, was in search of her Kai. Helped, but sometimes hindered, by Caw, the Raven, played by Rebecca Drysdale, and whose performance was memorable. She wore a superb costume.  This was another minor role but one which was very well played.


Ziggy, a spaced-out hippy, was played in true flower-power style by Pete Morville. I was fully expecting him to burst into the song, “Daddy Started Out In San Francisco”, as his performance was so evocative of the number in “Sweet Charity”.  A super role and a super performance.

Helping, sometimes hindering, Gerda’s onward journey, Princess Sunbeam was brought to life by Becky Wright.  This was a small role but Becky was very much in command and her “Oh, flipping heck” attitude was acutely observed.  Well done.


It was when we entered the woods of Finland that Gerda encountered the bandits.  Jamie-Leigh Hindman, as Frederika, dominated the stage.  A very fine actress, Jamie-Leigh was by turns, evil and then warm and friendly when she realised, that all she wanted was a friend.  Her robber sidekick was Sian Maynard who certainly helped the storyline move along, and together with Rufus, Indy Hindman, the three certainly made a formidable band of robbers.


The final character we met was Old Lady Lapp, played by Hannah Rigby.  In this cameo-role, Hannah was excellent.  It was She that brought all the magic ingredients together to enable Gerda eventually to triumph over the Snow Queen.


Whilst highlighting the named performers, this was also an ensemble show with a young chorus, complemented by dancers from Lynn McCheyne of the Sanderson Dance and Fitness Centre.  Very well executed dance routines highlighted the action on stage, helping to move the story along.

As I said at the beginning of this review, this was a very professional presentation.  A superb set designed by David Walton was enhanced by a video wall at the back of the stage which enabled a kaleidoscope of colours and scenes to portray the various scenes. Ken Hardwick, stage manager and his team worked wonders.  Props, lighting , hairstyles, make-up and sound balance were excellent.


The costumes from Molly Limpets and the society were wonderful, and there were so many of them.  It seemed that every member of the company had at least two costumes, plus many more for the principals.


I really must compliment the whole company for the stamina they have for putting on this pantomime, with umpteen matinees over a concentrated period of 6 days. The performance on the penultimate day seemed as fresh as it would have been on the first night,


My congratulations to each and everyone of you, either on stage or backstage, for presenting a memorable pantomime.  The two directors, Neil Tranmer and Angela Foulds, and everyone involved, must be delighted with the response to the show which garnered full houses for the run of this superb pantomime.