Interview with Lucy Tuck, playing the Snow Queen.
“I had a really fantastic moment in rehearsals last week when we were experimenting with freezing people,” Lucy Tuck confides.
“And I have to say, it was very addictive, having the power at your fingertips to look at someone, capture their attention and then freeze them to the core of their soul.”
While Lucy may not have many baddies on her CV (Cinderella’s misguided stepsister and a turn as the Wicked Witch of the West stand out among a much wider roster of ‘good’ roles) it appears all that is about to change – and in a big way – this Christmas in Chester where she is playing the title role in The Snow Queen.
“I think once you’ve met me, you realise there’s an option for me to go either way!” she laughs. “And what a gift for an actor to go, whoa – this is how the other half live. I’m not sure if I’m ever going to go back to the other side.”
Hans Christian Andersen’s deliciously dark tale, which pitches good against evil, has influenced a number of other famous stories since it was published at Christmas 1844, not least C S Lewis’s Narnia series and a certain Disney film best known for its exhortation to ‘let it go, let it go’.
But while it may include a frozen land, the only wardrobe in Storyhouse’s festive telling of the original will be the creative team backstage transforming Lucy into a glittering, edgy and extravagantly attired regal figure – much in the vein of the outrageous stage costumes sported by rock goddesses like Lady Gaga or Cher.
Meanwhile The Snow Queen marks the Bristol-based actor’s first visit both to Chester and to Storyhouse, and she’s looking forward to playing in its intimate thrust stage auditorium.
She says: “It’s a very familiar playing space, I do a lot of in-the-round performance.
“I love the idea of being able to play in a multi-directional way. I love the idea that you can reach for your audience with an angled look up, down, you don’t have to worry about always presenting yourself in a sort of declamatory way.”
Just watch out then for an angled look from the Snow Queen, especially given it can have such chilling consequences.
It’s a role that Lucy is evidently relishing, and while she’s preparing herself to be hated she admits there is also something very seductive about such a monstrous and eccentric baddie too – one that has a twinkle in her eye.
“I think she is someone who has felt great power, and has been overcome and she wants it back,” she suggests of the character who is in thrall to her own image. “She hasn’t lost that taste for power. A thousand years ago the Snow Queen was very powerful and became way too egotistical.
“A mirror is created, and her narcissism becomes so pronounced that she just loses herself in her own image. Then when the mirror breaks, that’s it. She has to wait a thousand years for that moment to try and regain her old power.
“The route is via this lovely, happy, sleepy little village, but there’s just one child who has got that real spark of energy, Cei. Suddenly there he is, whizzing through the snowscape on his sledge and she goes – perfect, I’m just going to swoop down and take that boy back to the far, far, far, far north of the whole world.”
The battle between good and evil is at the heart of many traditional Christmas tales – although Lucy admits it was more the chance to receive a present that used to attract her to the pantos at Watford Palace Theatre where she had her earliest experiences of performing in front of an audience.
“The thing I really used to love about the panto was when the kids were invited up on stage and got an amazing take-away gift at the end,” she explains.
“I’ll never forget seeing this happen, and that obviously went into my little psyche. So then next time I went to the panto, I remember that moment, going ‘I’m really, really ready for it’.
“When they said: ‘have we got any volunteers?’, my grandmother said she just took slightly too long to turn to her right and say: ‘would you like to go up?’ and found this empty seat going b-doing, b-doing, b-doing and her granddaughter running down the centre aisle!”
Of course, for Gerda – the girl who is on the stage at Storyhouse this Christmas – there will be more than a selection box at stake.
Instead, it will be nothing less than the life of her childhood friend Cei, as she negotiates her way through a series of distinct seasonal landscapes and experiences, growing in confidence and power all the time, to ultimately challenge the Snow Queen in her icy kingdom.
“I think the most beautiful thing is, the script starts with classic the phrase ‘once upon a time’,” says Lucy of the production. “And the rest pulls the audience into a magical tale and just disappearing for an hour-and-a-half into the adventures of all these terrific characters with a huge villain that needs to be overcome.
“There’s the force for good, that’s Gerda, and the force for bad, and that’s the Snow Queen.
“At some point they’re going to meet – and who is going to win? I think we all know who does!”
For more information and tickets, click here.