MUSIC / Notices: The Snow Queen - Trinity Theatre, Tunbridge Wells

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The Independent Culture
Beating the panto season with a Hans Christian Andersen story, Trinity's 'Unfamiliar Music Series' has lived up to its ahead-of-the-times reputation. You can't get less familiar than a new, full-length music-theatre piece, specially commissioned by Jane Manning. In Matthew King's score she shares the platform with instrumentalists from Jane's Minstrels and a schools chorus. Singers narrate; players sing duets with their instruments or suddenly leap on to the stage; the Snow Queen picks up her handbag and takes over at the piano. King switches deftly from Prokofiev to Mozart, Handel to Wagner, pastiche to parody, like a bright Hollywood composer with a sense of humour.

He has melodic fluency and the confidence to write tenderly without mocking the sentiment. Which voice is his own? When the jokes stop, it comes out rather like Britten. If anything it's too nice - even the robbers are socialists waiting for better times - and too long. But tightened up, with a higher scare factor, it will appeal to audiences at all levels. Certainly it had a persuasive premiere, as Manning switched between lip-curling narrator and lyrical ruler of the icy wastes, Tracey Chadwell and Pal Rullestad role-swapped with relish, and Louisa Brown gave a brave, touching portrayal of the girl who defeats the Snow Queen.