After a slightly disappointing production of The Jungle Book last year, the Watermill Theatre is back on form with a new show for Christmas, The Snow Queen, which runs until January 6. Just one word of warning: this is not really entertainment for the very youngest children, as the Watermill productions once were. There are just a couple of pretty scary moments, which could be upsetting for the under-fives, and some of the story-telling is a bit erudite.

That apart, this is thoroughly enjoyable Christmas entertainment. Based on the Hans Christian Andersen story and embellished with details from Old Norse legend, Neil Duffield's excellent script tells of the plot by the Snow Queen, a daughter of ice giants, to remove all traces of warmth from the known worlds.

In a reversal of global warming, she bewitches Frey, the frivolous god of spring, and turns him into Frost, while another youthful admirer, Kai, is abducted and forced to forget what a nice chap he once was. This sets up the action at the heart of the story, which is the hunt for these lost boys by their sisters, Freya (the goddess of spring) and Gerda.

As is now traditional at the Watermill, the versatile cast provide all the music on instruments ranging from a double bass to a washboard, as well as singing like angels. Freya (Sarah Stanley), pictured with brother Frey (Justin McCarron), is an accomplished flautist, and Michelle Long, a delightful Gerda, excels on the violin.

Along the way, the girls find that what was once a magical goatskin farm' has been transformed by the wicked Snow Queen into a robbers' castle. This creates an opportunity for a pantomime-style comedy duo, Snatch and Grab, who are easily duped into letting the girls escape in a scene based on The Emperor's New Clothes.

Karen Fisher-Pollard, who plays the beautiful but deadly Snow Queen, is also Snatch and Grab's sister, an unprepossessing robber princess. She helps the girls escape near execution at the hands of her brothers (that's one scary bit) before they almost come a cropper at the hands of huge furry troll with flashing eyes (well, he frightened me anyway).

Happily the Snow Queen eventually gets her comeuppance and spring, happiness and general goodness return, just as they should.

The Show Queen continues at the Watermill Theatre, in Bagnor, near Newbury, until January 6. For box office call 01635 46044 or book online at