Preview: The Snow Queen, Theatre Royal, Stratford East, London

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The Independent Culture

Baubles gleam and lights blink. It must be the holiday season, and there are plenty of shows to see in between shopping sprees.

The Hans Christian Andersen tale The Snow Queen is being given in pantomime at the Theatre Royal Stratford East. The theatre is known for its multicultural audience and friendly environment, so this classic tale with a twist is in good hands.

Gerda, a devoted and fearless friend, sets off on a northbound journey in freezing weather to find Kai, who has been snatched away by the evil Snow Queen with help from her wicked trolls.

Dawn Reid, the director of The Snow Queen, looks forward to audience reaction. "The Stratford East audience is so vibrant. They're exciting and diverse," she says. "It's such a beautifully mixed crowd of so many different backgrounds that come together. We are very lucky in that respect."

Audiences can expect a show recognisably in the panto tradition although, in true Stratford East style, a completely original musical score has been created for it. "This is the first year that we've worked with six different composers for one show. They have all come out of our contemporary musical theatre workshop course," Reid says. "It's a real vibrant blend - you've got a bit of reggae and ska, and alternative. It's something for everyone."

As Reid explains, breaking the "fourth wall" and talking to the audience is part of the Stratford East experience. While children will love the visual fantasy and interaction of the show, adults will appreciate the writing. "Hope Massiah, our writer, is fantastic at fluidly putting in subtexts that adults and older children will appreciate," she says. "There are issues of conformity, and issues for children and parents. Another major theme is children just growing up trying to find their own way and having a chance. It's just a great entertainment piece.

"We hope the work we put on our stage reflects the voices in our community. One of the main things we say is that our audiences are the last 'character' that we cast. They are so much a part of our work and what we do here."

6 December to 13 January (020-8534 0310)

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