The Drama Club brings The Snow Queen to Stratford ArtsHouse from 2nd to 4th November — here director Aaron Bixley, pictured, tells Herald arts all about it.
What made you decide to do The Snow Queen?
“We decided to do The Snow Queen when the ArtsHouse invited us back after our hugely successful production of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. New writing and new ideas have always been at the heart of The Drama Club and we’re always up for a challenge! When we scoured around for a script, we found that they were all restrictive in some way, whereas we like to work organically and physically. So, Sarah [Plowright, who runs The Drama Club with husband Aaron] went back to the original text, which was no easy task! I mean have you tried to read The Snow Queen? How they ever got Disney’s Frozen from it, I’ll never know!
“But, in researching the story you realise that you can see the footprints of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings and Pullman’s The Northern Lights in the story. You know that if those boys have nicked stuff from it; it’s worth trying to adapt the piece as a whole. Sarah has done an amazing job weaving the strands together and building a show which is very moving and beautiful. This is all matched up by a wonderful score written by local composer Bryony Jones, who we love working with.”
Tell us about the production — who’s in it and who’s doing what?
“We have 38 brilliant young people in the cast and as musicians. We’ve been as inclusive as possible about casting young people from the district and had an open audition in May. Some of them for example, the girl playing Gerda, have been with The Drama Club since they were in Year 1 — now she’s in Year 8! That’s commitment for you! At the other end of our spectrum we have an 18-year-old playing Soren White Bear, who is also the Company Stage Manager and running the show too — he wants to turn pro and he’s only been with us for the last four years. A lot of the students in The Snow Queen are in the production for their Arts Award in Bronze, Silver and Gold. They achieve this nationally recognised qualification by taking part in an arts activity.”
What have been your main challenges?
“The challenge has been writing a bespoke script and score for the ArtsHouse space, that’s never going to be easy with a large cast and a small proscenium stage.
“But I think we have achieved what we set out to do: create an original piece of theatre with brave young actors in a very unique space. We’ve also raised the bar because we have just a week to put the whole thing together. Pressure forces you to think creatively, luckily we are blessed with an excellent creative team — musical director Julian Shortman, fight director Tom Jordan, choreographer Jenni Sharp, lighting design Joseph Stairs and scenic artist Linzi Whitting who is providing us with ice sculptures!”
What do you think the audience will get from the show?
“The audience is in for a real treat! Where else can you see 38 actors up on stage, in an original ‘homegrown’ production? What I love about our production is that we’ve gone out of our way to create some good old-fashioned theatrical magic. The score is hauntingly original and to have this played by Year 8 students is amazing.
“I would love the audience to be made up of just children — they are the best critics and love stories performed by other children. What I would also like is for the audience to forget that they are watching youngsters and just enjoy being swept up by the epic story.
“Well, I’m directing Into The Woods at Kingsley School two weeks after this, I have a couple of shows at The Croft [where Aaron is head of drama] in December, then I’m back at the ArtsHouse directing Stratford’s pantomime, Jack and the Beanstalk. For The Drama Club, it’s a well earned break at Christmas, then it’s back to our after school clubs and Arts Award — details of which can be found at www.thedramaclub.org.uk”
Where and when: The Snow Queen is on at the Stratford ArtsHouse from 1st to 4th November. Tickets are available online at www.stratfordartshouse.co.uk or by calling the box office on 01789 207100.