The Snow Queen (5 stars)

The Snow Queen

credit: Andy Ross

A warm heart glows beneath the surface of this icy Christmas blockbuster from Scottish Ballet

As Christopher Hampson, Scottish Ballet's artistic director, points out in the programme notes, no one really remembers the full story of Hans Christian Andersen's The Snow Queen. It's a nebulous kind of tale, built of character names – Kai, Gerda, the Snow Queen – and memorable moments – the splinter of mirror lodged in Kai's heart, the icy palace.

All of these are woven into Scottish Ballet's re-telling, but Hampson, together with designer Lez Brotherston, has created a clear, simple narrative, illuminating the reason for the Snow Queen's frosty heart by showing us a prologue of her living with her sister, the Summer Princess, before her sister flees the ice palace to seek love in the real world. She becomes the pickpocket Lexi, and her fate tangles up with the two sweethearts, Kai and Gerda. Eventually the Snow Queen catches up with them all and spirits Kai away to her palace, prompting a quest by Gerda to find him.

Ice may be all around – winking at us in gemstones on the Snow Queen (Constance Devernay)'s bodice; coating the marketplace in delicate Dickensian flakes; hardened into the pagan faces of Jack Frosts – but its flip-side, warmth, is always present too. The city-dwellers in cosy 50s-chic coats leap in snug partner dances, gypsies in the forest swoon and spin in the coal-glow of vardos, a circus troupe splashes colour against the snow-coated city, and the spark between Bethany Kingsley-Garner's Gerda, and Andrew Peasgood's Kai is enough to kindle a stove, as they swirl romantically in one another's arms.

It's this subtle but crystal clear descriptive style that makes Hampson's choreography so brilliantly, hugely enjoyable. It finds its perfect counterpoint in Lez Brotherston's luxurious vision, and all is bound by a tapestry of works from Rimsky-Korsakov, edited into a score by Richard Honner (at one point performed onstage in a dazzling violin solo from Gillian Risi).

Frosty and firelit, sweet and sharp, it's another Scottish Ballet Christmas triumph.

Edinburgh Festival Theatre, until Sun 29 Dec, and touring.

Scottish Ballet: The Snow Queen

The Scottish Ballet perform this glittering winter tale inspired by Hans Christian Andersen, set to the music of Rimsky-Korsakov and choreographed by Christopher Hampson.

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