REVIEW: The Snow Queen, Nuffield, Southampton, until January 4.

Rob Castell’s outrageously-camp, endlessly-enthusiastic, OTT Californian Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer is worth the admission alone – a piece of madness which will surely rank as the area’s best comic creation this Christmas.

Things are going along nicely enough until Rudolph takes the stage in a terrific piece of characterisation which shakes the mums and dads to life alongside their gently-smiling kiddies.

The show most definitely isn’t a panto, and maybe it’s just a little slow to spring to life. Certainly the opening couple of minutes are a confusing mess which need to be dropped straightaway.

Slowly but surely, however, it’s a show which exerts a charm all its own – and then Rudolph erupts on stage and hilariously takes the whole thing by the scruff of its neck, injecting an energy you maybe only half realised was just a little lacking.

Castell also offers the night’s other highlight, a plummy Hugh-Grantesque prince who’s just a little disenchanted with a Snow White he’s started to realise he preferred when she was out for the count.

Rudolph and the Prince, along with a raven – very nicely played by Jack Shalloo – and a punk Red Riding Hood (Nicola Munns) are the characters, slightly Wizard of Oz-like,

Gerda (Jessie Hart) picks up along the way as she journeys to rescue Kai (Jos Slovick) from the clutches of the Snow Queen.

Slovick really isn’t given an awful lot to work with in the character of Kai who spends an awfully-long time suspended above the stage, but Hart is spot on as Gerda, mixing vulnerability and spirit quite beautifully as she learns a few life lessons.

For anyone suffering panto indigestion or anyone in search of something rather different this Christmas, The Snow Queen might just be the ticket – a slow-starter but genuinely enchanting (and hilarious!) by the end.

Phil Hewitt