At one level, this lively and expressive performance perfectly lived up to its designated age guidance of eight and above. On another, ‘Beneath the Blizzard’ successfully enthralled adults alike. The dynamic acting, upbeat music and imaginative world of giant human-eating snowmen wonderfully captured the minds of the younger audience members. Frequent audience participation magnified the sense of fun and silliness. The children delighted as their Dads’ bald heads were used as impromptu wilting plant props and their Grandparents were “mistaken” for “fragile antiques”. Amidst all this fun, at its core was a simple story of friendship, teaching the value of sacrificing one’s own security for a friend in need.
The energy and skill of the actors, which fueled the humour and sincerity of the characters, made this a truly magical performance. Forced underground by an unceasing blizzard, people now lived in a system of tunnels under Bristol, working sixteen-hour shifts on treadmills and bikes to make just enough energy for the underground power system – or so they think. It unravels that it is the Mayor, a corrupt ruler, who upholds this exploitative organisation. His catchphrase ‘Everybody strives, everyone survives’ in reality equates to ‘Everybody strives, everyone heats my bubble bath’. Two misfits Sprout and Skitter lead ‘The Rodent Relief’ – a cabaret act which brings hope and joy through music in this dark and dismal world.
This performance used lights and music to contrast the tiresome work with the great hope in the characters. A sinister song of darkness transitioned into a wonderfully funny qausi-aerobics class in which the audience were taught how to pump in order to achieve the greatest energy production. The set and props were used imaginatively and extended across the entire audience - a sheet and a light from a touch wan an ingenuous way of visually evoking the journey across snow from a distance.
It was the touching and humorous familiarities which made the performance such a success. Sprout’s excitement over Heinz baked beans, the reference to Brian Cox, and the setting under the fantastic city of Bristol all contributed to recall a distant but accessible world. Sprout’s frustration at the Mayor’s recorded messaging service during a moment of panic was wonderfully evocative of our everyday lives – a hilarious addition we can all relate to. The Mayor even specified the ‘pre-Brexit’ Toblerone chocolate as a more tempting treat to lure Skirrett into his trap. These familiarities, alongside their engagement with and investment in the characters which made the production triumphant. A truly sincere performance full of heart-warming humour and hope.