REVIEW: The Frozen Princess

"A tale of two girls who loved each other like diamonds and pearls." That's Fairy Sunshine, played by the vibrantly eclectic Nicky Harley as a not always welcome force of nature, providing both our gateway to and our selling point for this year's Waterfront Hall studio pantomime, The Frozen Princess. Along with its late night, adult brother The Baltic Princess (an hour's worth of extended stand up-stroke-panto frolics also running at The Waterfront studio, starring Diona Doherty, Sean Hegarty and Gerard McCabe), Chris Robinson's production is a mirthful and musical riot, tempo and loudness escalating to a whole new kind of anarchy.

As far as the kids' show goes, though, "anarchy" would be too simplistic a word. I'm firm in the belief that the best pantomimes aren't about the pyrotechnics, but the people – nothing is more valuable than connections from and with the audience, the kind that give everyone the feeling that we are part of something special. So it is with The Frozen Princess, every bit the locally-oriented, light-hearted Disney-inspired collage of recognisable anachronisms that it never pretends to be anything more than. A show set in a Belfast that's so freezing that the only radio station is Cool FM, where Primark is like an episode of The Walking Dead, and where Jack Frost has nothing on our dame.

Dame Amanda Marry Weather, that is, a more nimble than you'd expect comic foil for the vast range of talent on stage which includes her, or his, alter ego, Marty Maguire. Talent that wastes no time in showing up and showing off what can be really be done with the various conventions in one of the most popular Disney films of the decade if you just let it go (sorry) with the flow.

The tale of the titular Princess Elsa (Catriona McFeely) and her sister, Princess Anna (Eimear Barr) is a poignant chuckler in its own right – in the hands of this cast, Robinson, choreographer Annika Graham, composer Katie Richardson and writers Tom Rowntree-Finlay and Thomas McCorry, it's an absolute feast of fun, a literal carnival. Richardson's songs, which evoke pleasing memories of eighties ballads and cartoony classics, are the ideal mixture of the colourful and dramatic for two princesses suddenly divided by a devastating curse – we know it'll be broken, and we know that Anna will have her union with Prince Frederick Founder (Gavin Peden), so the fun is all in a series of well-constructed sketches.

All the laughter doesn't quite prevent the charm and presence from emerging, and how thankful we are for that. Eimear Barr, as Anna, is a true find - quirky, perky and sharp in both musicality and wit, a feisty and engaging heroine. Catriona McFeely is equally, if not more, commanding. Having previously seen her play a good princess, it’s refreshing to see McFeely take a villainous role and kind of reshape it in the image of one of CS Lewis' most famous creations, Jadis, while adhering to the identity of the context. Jo Donnelly joins Nicky Harley in the sometimes unenviable, but crucial, role of the multi-roled sidekick – at times their expressions alone split sides in adults and bring loud giggles from children.

With all that in mind, it becomes apparent, in this case at least, that the smaller and more intimate the hall, the better - as it is with The Frozen Princess. Robinson and company heartwarmingly grasp the connection and communal warmth within the cascade of joy that bursts out from the stage, presenting us with a show as charmingly entertaining as it is recognisably, pleasurably human.

Simon Fallaha

The Frozen Princess runs at Belfast's Waterfront Hall until December 31. For more information visit

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