The Snowman Peacock Theatre: a review of the Sadlers Wells show, London

The Snowman Peacock Theatre: a review of the Sadlers Wells show, London

Be warned: if you go to an afternoon performance of Raymond Briggs’ The Snowman, at Sadler’s Wells’ Peacock Theatre, you won’t find a reverent audience, hushed in awe and shhhsh-ing at every rustle. Apart from Pantomimes, The Snowman has become possibly the most popular Christmas theatrical event for families. The Birmingham Repertory Performance is now in its 21st consecutive year at the central London venue. When we watched it on a Sunday afternoon, back in 2016 (this post is an update of our review), the auditorium was full of excited four, five and six year olds. They spent the performance noisily waving Snowman glitter-sticks and munching chocolate muffins from the theatre cafe.

But the buzz of chatter in the audience doesn’t overshadow the on-stage action, or Howard Blake’s music. The live orchestra elevated it above the audience’s din, and there was a collective audience gasp when the score moved into a rendition of the old favourite, ‘Walking in the Air’. The Snowman Peacock Theatre is based on Raymond Briggs’ book, as well as the film directed by Dianne Jackson and produced by John Coates. So it brings in some Christmas elements to the book’s story, like a meeting with Santa Claus. It’s all very festive. Ruari Murchison’s set was presented in an appealing palate of neutral snow whites, with flashes of holly-berry red in the Boy’s toy plane and his jumper; and jewel-brights, like the creme de menthe coat of a carol singer.

The Snowman

In The Snowman at Sadler’s Wells, the Boy builds a snowman. He wakes in the night to find him transformed into a living, breathing creature. The Boy shows the snowman round his home, which involves a scratchy encounter with the family cat, and a near-miss when the Snowman gets too close to the fire, and starts to melt. There’s a fun section where life-size fruit comes tumbling out of the kitchen fridge, and pirouettes around. A sweet dance sequence features a life-size soldier, jewellery-box ballerina and teddy bear. I could have done without an inexplicable segment where the Boy and Snowman find a light switch and switch it on and off to create disco lighting, then begin to ‘rave’.

The Boy and his new friend venture outdoors (“but he doesn’t have any gloves on!” – this from my four-year-old daughter). They move through a series of charming vignettes, meeting woodland creatures, a fairy, other Snowmen (including a rambustious Scottish version, clad in a kilt) and a menacing Jack Frost, who had my daughter requesting to leave the auditorium.

The Snowman

How long is The Snowman show?

The Peacock Theatre performance of The Snowman was one hour and forty minutes, including an interval. The second half was shorter, with more ensemble dance pieces and flying sequences (impressive stuff, especially for the actor playing the Boy, who looked no older than 12, and who must have had high levels of stamina).

Snowman Peacock Theatre age range

The Snowman is advertised as being suitable for all ages. The plot was a simple one, with no dialogue and easy to digest by an audience of four- to six-year olds. But the complex dance routines, flying and eye-catching set all make it suitable for older audiences, too. My seven-year-old son said that he enjoyed it. He didn’t, though, seem quite as transfixed by the theatrical magic as my younger daughter. Over-tens may find the show a little young for their tastes. But The Snowman is the sort of performance you grow back into; and, as an adult, I found the experience of watching it with my small family, completely enchanting.

The Snowman

The Snowman is at the Peacock Theatre, London from 22 November 2018 until 6 Jan 2019. Sadlers Wells gave us family tickets to the show for the purpose of this post, originally written in 2016.

You might also like to read our review of Stick Man at London’s Leicester Square Theatre.

If you want to save your pennies so you can splurge on Christmas theatre for the family, why not check out our post on free things to do in London this Christmas.

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24 Comments

  1. December 2, 2016 / 8:36 am

    I love the sound of this, Nell. It sounds like the perfect introduction to dance for little ones. We haven’t seen The Snowman on stage but we’re big fans of the book – and the charming television drama. #CulturedKids

    • Nell
      Author
      December 2, 2016 / 2:34 pm

      Yes, the Snowman really has become part of Christmas.

  2. December 2, 2016 / 9:28 am

    Such a classic book and film, it can only be a success on stage too. My kids have seen very little theatre in their lives which is in complete contrast to how I was brought up with perhaps an overload at times, but I don’t find France as child-friendly for theatre as UK. They’re way older than this target audience now but they both loved the book and would have enjoyed this years ago. #culturedkids

    • Nell
      Author
      December 2, 2016 / 2:43 pm

      Yes, I’m glad we managed to get this trip in when we did!

  3. December 2, 2016 / 10:41 am

    Great review Nell, it’s such a magical show, I’ll never forget the look on my boys’ faces especially when the Snowman and boy lift off! It’s actually years since we’ve seen it and one of those shows that I’d be happy to see again and again, there is just always so much to cram in over the festive season! Sadler’s Wells always has fantastic offerings over Christmas too x

    • Nell
      Author
      December 2, 2016 / 2:34 pm

      I know – we saw posters for the Little Match Girl when were were there, which also looked lovely.

    • Nell
      Author
      December 2, 2016 / 2:43 pm

      We want to go back!

  4. December 2, 2016 / 8:35 pm

    This sounds like such a charming show. My kids are probably still too young for it since my three year old can’t sit still long enough to sit in a theater no matter what is showing. #CulturedKids

    • Nell
      Author
      December 8, 2016 / 8:34 pm

      Give them a year or two, and they’d be a perfect age 🙂

  5. December 2, 2016 / 9:47 pm

    This sounds such a lovely production – my daughter watched The Snowman (or part of it) at school today and came home chatting all about it. I know the hairs still stand up on my neck when I hear Walking in the Air. #cul6

    • Nell
      Author
      December 8, 2016 / 8:34 pm

      You’d love this then, Cathy!

  6. December 4, 2016 / 9:36 pm

    My son adores The Snowman film, so I know that he would love to see this. I will have to see whether we can get down to London to see this

    • Nell
      Author
      December 8, 2016 / 8:38 pm

      I can thoroughly recommend it! x

  7. December 5, 2016 / 8:31 am

    Great review of what looks like a perfect winter show for children. The fact that your daughter was so terrified by Jack Frost shows the level of engagement that she had during the performance. I have two little girls that would surely love this too.
    Thanks for the #CulturedKids link-up and greetings from a very chilly Luxembourg (the Snowman would be extremely comfortable here at the moment…)

    • Nell
      Author
      December 8, 2016 / 8:38 pm

      Oooh that sounds very festive indeed!

  8. December 5, 2016 / 2:14 pm

    This sounds perfect for young kids. I feel like we might be coming into zone for this kind of show with Tin Box Tot who is nearly four. Our theatre days are coming around again!

    • Nell
      Author
      December 8, 2016 / 8:39 pm

      yay! Bring them on xx

  9. December 6, 2016 / 2:33 am

    I haven’t been to the theater in ages. I used to go a lot when I was in college. Your review of this play is so good. I can imagine all the little details. I like that all the little kids were chattering and getting exited with the characters. That sweet energy is contagious.

    • Nell
      Author
      December 8, 2016 / 8:44 pm

      Yes, there was plenty of energy in the audience!

  10. December 7, 2016 / 8:26 am

    Ooh I hope they have this on next year as it looks fantastic. I’ve been fascinated with ballet since I was little and was not allowed to do it – my mum took a very literal interpretation of feminism! Looks like a fantastic production

    • Nell
      Author
      December 9, 2016 / 10:40 am

      My friend’s son does ballet, and loves it. Now that’s what I call a feminist act! xx

    • Nell
      Author
      December 19, 2016 / 10:05 am

      Thanks for joining in! x

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