Last Updated on November 20, 2021
The Snowman at the Peacock Theatre – Review
If you hadn’t realised that Christmas was on its way, an afternoon or evening at the Peacock theatre watching ‘The Snowman’ will bring you up to speed really quickly. After Covid cancelled one of London’s most popular Christmas shows last year, it’s back for 2021, thrilling children and adults alike. We went along to the opening night, along with a lot of small people, their parents and a few adults living their childhood vicariously.
Even those of us who were already grown up when Raymond Briggs ‘The Snowman’ was first published in 1978 know the story. After a night of snow, the boy builds a snowman. When he’s meant to be tucked up in bed, at midnight the boy creeps downstairs and looks outside to find that The Snowman has come to life. It’s the start of a great adventure – a story that has been adapted for TV film (in 1982) and for the stage. What makes the production so special is that it really does work for smaller children, without being in any way patronising. The audience tonight was aged from less than a year through to over 60 – and I don’t think any of us felt we’d lost out.
The first stage version, in 1986, was in Manchester. In 1993, Birmingham Repertory Company staged a production with music and lyrics by Howard Blake, scenario by Blake, with Bill Alexander and choreography by Robert North. That version has been shown almost every year as the Christmas Show at the Peacock Theatre, though we understand that there’s something new each year. Tonight’s show had a brilliant ‘Boy’ in the form of Ethan Sokontwe who at the age of nine has already appeared on stage as Potiphar and Benjamin in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and won the national Hip Hop championships with IMD Legion. As you might imagine, his dancing was immaculate, but he also showed astonishing maturity as an actor. There are three ‘Boys’ on stage this year and I have no doubt the others will be equally magnificent.
The universal appeal of the story is partly because it is told through mime and imagery, with just one main song that has words, the famous ‘Walking in the Air’. Whether or not you’ve seen the book, it’s a captivating tale that had the audience laughing, clapping along, gasping and looking up in wonder.
Inspired by the film directed by Diane Jackson and produced by John Coates, The Snowman is at the heart of a magical Christmas, “guaranteed to melt the heart of even the most cynical Scrooge” (The Guardian).
This year’s production is the 23rd year. After the Sadler’s Wells season, the Snowman also presents at Birmingham Repertory Theatre from 6-9 January 2022. Featuring choreography by Robert North, direction by Bill Alexander, design by Ruari Murchison, lighting by Tim Mitchell and timeless music and lyrics by Howard Blake, the production has already been seen by audiences of over half a million at the Peacock Theatre – and I thoroughly enjoyed my own turn this year!
London WC2A 2HT
20 November 2021 – 2 January 2022