A SNOW Queen “with a beating heart” will enchant audiences in Scottish Ballet’s sparkling reimagining of the fairytale.

Christopher Hampson’s new production has its world premiere in Edinburgh just days after cinemas see the release of the sequel to Frozen, also inspired by Hans Christian Andersen’s classic story.

The show then transfers to Glasgow, Aberdeen and Inverness in the new year - the first time a dance production of The Snow Queen has toured Scotland.

Set to music by Russian composer Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov, audiences will be spirited from a busy festive market to the frozen realms of the Snow Queen’s palace in the production, which closes the company’s 50th anniversary year.

Hampson says the show, which the artistic director created in collaboration with multi-award-winning designer Lez Brotherston, reimagines Andersen’s story “in a spectacular new world”.

First published in 1845, the fairytale told of Gerda’s quest to save her friend Kai and break the spell of the Snow Queen’s endless winter.

Though Frozen ended up being a very different story to Andersen’s original, its writers were obviously struck by the inversion of the traditional trope of a hapless maiden being saved by a handsome prince.

“There’s two main things that for me make The Snow Queen quite a different tale to others,” says Hampson. “Winter itself becomes a character in the story. We often talk about winter being beautiful and magical, but when you’re in it, the cold hurts. It’s harsh and it can be so cruel. That two sides of the coin makes the story so fascinating.”

“The second part is that the Snow Queen herself is so beguiling,” he continues. “Fairytales usually have a discernible villain, whereas there’s a lot of ambiguity in the Snow Queen, who she is, why she’s there and what her role is in the story.”

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Curiosity was central to how Hampson and Brotherston collaborated on the production, which sees the action driven by the titular queen, Gerda on a quest to rescue her true love and Lexi, a pickpocket named in Andersen’s original as the Little Robber Girl.

“With some designers you can immediately start talking about the look and feel of a production but with Lez, he starts interrogating the story,” says Hampson. “He’s character-driven. He really wants to understand the character and then the character informs his design.”

“The first question we asked each other was: ‘Why is the Snow Queen so angry? Why is she so cruel or wicked? We need to answer that, otherwise there’s no empathy with her story. And essentially her story is a story of her wanting to get her sister back.”

In Frozen, what breaks the spell of Arendelle’s endless winter is an act of sisterly rather than romantic love – a radical step for Disney.

Like the animated showstopper, Hampson’s reimagining uses Andersen’s tale as “purely foundational”.

Plus, we are told from the start that the Snow Queen has a sister, who Hampson calls the Summer Princess. Performed by Kayla-Maree Tarantolo in Edinburgh, she hides her true identity under the ragged clothes of a pickpocket.

“I remember meeting the Little Robber Girl when I first read the story,” says Hampson. “She’s quite threatening at first and almost holds Gerda to ransom. She’s a really interesting character but she’s only in it at right at the end. In our version we highlight that character – we call her Lexi – and she’s it all the way through.”

In teasing out the backstories of Andersen’s most compelling characters, Hampson and Brotherston’s adaptation is markedly different to traditional retellings which cast the Snow Queen as a frosty-fingered brute.

In investigating why she is the way she is, the pair found the Snow Queen’s heart wasn’t completely frozen after all.

“There are characteristics you would usually associate with her at some points in the story,” says Hampson. “She’s icy cold, she finds it hard to deliver her emotional feelings. But it’s borne out of the fact that all she wants is companionship from her sister.

“This Snow Queen has more of a beating heart because we understand her more and we see that the relationship with her sister is of more value to her than anything else, than certainly any man or love interest. It’s her family, her sister that she wants.”

In Edinburgh, Constance Devernay will perform as the Snow Queen in frosted robes and a tiara made from icy shards – one of 111 costumes Brotherston created for the production.

Brave Gerda will be performed by Bethany Kingsley-Garner, with the festive spectacular being the second time in recent months Scottish Ballet’s two female principals have shared a stage.

The pair stunned earlier this year in Helen Pickett’s white-hot adaptation of Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, which was both a highlight of the company’s 50th-anniversary programme and proof of the vivacity of contemporary narrative ballet.

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The acclaimed production was the first major commission of Five in Five, the company’s ambitious project to stage five new full-length ballets over five years – one for every decade of their history.

The Snow Queen is the second; the third will be a reimagining of Sir Kenneth MacMillan’s Scandal at Mayerling set for September 2020.

Centred around Austrian Crown Prince Rudolf, an anti-hero obsessed by sex and death, Scottish Ballet’s adaptation will be the first time MacMillan’s opulent piece has been produced in the UK outside of London.

“We’re going to do it the Scottish Ballet way,” says Hampson.

“Which is with me going to Lady MacMillan and saying to her: ‘If the ballet is to come to the company, we need to look at the entire production differently’.

"We need to ask how we can do it today. It’s still set in the same period but we will be really focusing on the main characters.”

He adds: “We’re a small company, we’re just half the size of the Royal Ballet, so it will feel very different and it will look very different – and that’s very exciting to us.”

December 7 to 29, Festival Theatre, Edinburgh, 7.30pm (not Sundays), mats 2.30pm (not 11, 18, 27), £19 to £46. Tel: 0131 529 6000; January 3 to 18, Theatre Royal, Glasgow; Jan 22 to 25, His Majesty’s Theatre, Aberdeen; Jan 29 to February 1, Eden Court, Inverness. www.scottishballet.co.uk