Once Upon a Snowstorm – Traverse Theatre

Written by Richard Johnson

Adapted and Directed by Jo Timmins

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Traditionally, the Traverse Theatre steers away from the obligatory forms of Christmas productions, though many still skirt the edges of wintery or differing end-of-year customs. Continuing a break from the influx of Yule-time-infused shows across Edinburgh, Once Upon a Snowstorm presents a clean and simple tale which snares the imagination.

Adapting Richard Johnson’s gentle picture book, Jo Timmins also directs this compact and tender production designed to engage with a younger audience – but it manages to sweep all within its soft, billowing storytelling of a father and his young son who live an isolated life in a cottage in the woods, who become separated during the titular snowstorm.

Michael Sherin and Fay Guiffo strike a beautiful harmony of movement and comradery as the father and son, but Sherin has more on their plate than that of a solo role. Johnson’s tale separates the two, but Guiffo’s young Boy is never alone for long – Sherin taking great delight in capturing a range of animal friends, most noticeably an imposing, but gentile Bear. From the smallest of cooing pigeons to the scurrying Racoon, Sherin and Guffio bring life to each creature with enough distinction and exaggeration to captivate and conjure a menagerie of critters.

Chances are taken, though by no means scary or threatening, brief elements of tension spark a sense of crucial reality, but nothing which could raise an eyebrow of concern for audiences and parents. It’s all counterbalanced efficiently with the whimsy of the boy’s adventures with the woodland world Timmins crafts within the venue space, becoming an extension of the stage: the pair meandering in and through the audience on their adventures to forage, discover, and to escape the storm.

Crisp whites, crinkled with snow, Sophie Ferguson’s purist design forms a spectacular canvas of imagination and potential. The intricacy in which Emma Jones’ lighting shifts from the harshness of the frozen world to that rarely captured warmth located in snowfall is captivating for audiences young and old. Expectantly, Once Upon a Snowstorm is a strikingly visual production for younger audiences, and while colour and pastels are key, everything is thought-out.

While significantly visual in construction, sound plays a tremendous role throughout Lyra Edinburgh’s production (with support from Catherine Wheels), both instrumentally and in the cadence of storytelling. David Paul Jone’s composition enhances Guffio’s superb live violin strings providing a twinkling and tranquil addition, perfectly paired with a light-fantastic sequence of constellations gazing under a frost-bitten sky.

Rejuvenating audiences who may be awash with the garish and excitable world of Panto’s festive indulgences, Timmins sincere Once Upon a Snowstorm relishes delighting young audiences, as well as their older companions with vivid colour, fresh storytelling, and sensory exploration. A gentle and heartfelt spectacle await audiences – and whilst it would be shameful to spoil the surprises in store, we can guarantee one thing; there will be snow.

A Gentile and Heartfelt

Once Upon a Snowstorm runs at the Traverse Theatre until December 23rd.

Tickets for which may be obtained here.

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