Official website for Mark C. Hewitt & Blank Productions

Snow Q

Text by Maria Jastrz
Directed by Mark C. Hewitt
Performed by Rita Suszek & Maria Zio
with music by Peter Copley (performed by Ellie Blackshaw)
and film sequence by Wendy Pye

Described as a troubled fairy tale for troubled times, Snow Q is a multimedia live literature production with text by poet Maria Jastrzębska that reimagines the story of The Snow Queen
by Hans Christian Andersen to explore contemporary themes of social isolation, gender, sexuality, migration and exile. Performed by Polish actresses Rita Suszek & Maria Ziołkowska directed by Mark C. Hewitt, the work was R&D'd in January/February 2020 ahead of preview UK performances in Portsmouth, Lewes, Birmingham, London and Brighton.

Hans Christian Andersen published his much-loved fairy tale, The Snow Queen, in 1844. In the original story, Kai is captured by the Snow Queen and held in her ice palace, causing Gerda to bravely go on a quest to rescue her friend, crossing borders and meeting creatures along the way. Maria Jastrzębska's re-imagining consists of a series of poems and duologues in the voices of Crow - an acerbic supernatural commentator on human affairs - and Gerda & Kai, who, in this version, both identify as non-binary. All speak in the hybrid language of Ponglish (part English / part-Polish) in a setting that is part contemporary, part fairy tale, and in a climate that is bitterly cold.

Actresses Maria Ziołkowska & Rita Suszek. Photo © Mal Glover, 2020

“As a child I was greatly disturbed by the idea of a piece of ice falling into your heart. Could someone else’s tears melt it? I wanted to use this story to ask what it is that keeps us disconnected from one another and everything around us. How do we truly communicate with each other? Once ice has lodged in our hearts, can it melt?” (Maria Jastrzębska)

Snow Q poster Clapham Library low-res

Review from Portsmouth performance by Jackie Green:
"… Good theatre challenges the senses and this did so from the beginning. It started with an empty stage, a soundscape of voices and a backdrop of ice and snow. The temperature inside The Tower seemed to fall as we were enveloped into an icy world of haunting melody, spliced language and the chilling howl of a wolf. Gerda, played by Maria Ziółkowska, appears searching for Kai. In the original tale Kai is locked in an ice prison with a heart cruelly frozen by The Snow Queen. Maria Jastrzębska uses a series of poems and conversations, in English and Ponglish, to relate their search for each other. Rita Suszek as Crow manages to simultaneously appear scary and pull off a black, manic humour. She was both quirky and unnerving. Her physical representation and piercing calls that filled the rafters, were alarmingly life like, and had me ducking from imagined crow attacks. I found the narrative of the poetry led me along several paths. Both characters identified as non-binary. Could gender fluidity place you in a landscape without definition? Gerda discovered that when familiar boundaries are covered with snow, you can't find your way. Was Kai lost in a cold world of social isolation? Is language ever the real problem or is it the more common failure to see another person properly?The poetry described the pain of immigrants leaving behind a culture, a sense of belonging and being forced to try on a new skin that didn't quite fit. The ageless crow, witnessed years of suffering but had managed to fly across borders effortlessly, almost making fun of our anxieties that demand we identify and box everyone. Misfits not allowed. The wilderness of depression and disconnect this brings was another strand. It closes as they hold hands, stiffly side by side, almost frozen and talk of sleep. I found myself fixed on the icy reflections on Gerda's cheek as they harmonised interpretations of the final sleep we all fear. Music in the theatre often provides background but in this production was a full cast member. I felt a bitter chill and the loneliness of the lost. It added another dimension. … Sometimes you have to make an audience work to open hearts and minds. I think the Snow Q managed just that."