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Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

by on 17 February 2018

Short and Sweet

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

Star Pantomime Group, Hampton Hill Theatre until 17th February

Review by Matthew Grierson

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away – well, last night in Hampton Hill at least – I was reminded of the opening to Star Wars. As the lights dim ahead of Snow White, the Fairy Godmother (Nicola Dean) scrolls through an in-depth prologue, before the show opens with a blast.

The dance number that kicks things off, and those that regularly punctuate the play, is spectacular. The choreography would be impressive enough for grown-up dancers, but with a chorus that ranges in age from (I’m guessing) three to late teens, it’s show-stopping. And that’s even before the gymnastics, all of which are Olympic in their confidence and accomplishment. At various points, the troupe also become villagers, servants and creatures of the forest, so there must be just as much choreography going on backstage to get them in and out of costume. They can all be very proud of themselves.

 

Just as charming are the seven dwarfs, played by a primary-age contingent of boys and girls who sport matching beards and costumes. They cope with a substantial amount of dialogue capably, rattling through a succession of puns on their diminutive stature with practised ease. Even when one of them dries they do not get flustered, and in fact it prompts the sweetest of prompts: Kate Turner, half in character as Scribbles the clerk and half in her role as producer, shuffles on in mock-disappointment, asks the septet to identify the culprit and, once she has reminded him (I think it’s Grumpy) of his line, sends them about their business.

The moment captures perfectly the show’s position in the overlap on the Venn diagram between “expertly staged” and “good-humoured improvisation”. While Turner herself rarely sticks to the script she rarely fails to steal a scene either, leaving Ian Pendry as the exasperated Justice Quill to keep the plot ticking over. I say “plot” but no writer is credited, nor a director come to that. So while the action hits the necessary beats – Snow White falls in love with Prince, check, Queen Avarice schemes to kill her stepdaughter, check, happy ending, check – it’s the muddle between these that allows the supporting cast to shine. In particular “GB” as housekeeper Edna Bucket, or, as she styles herself, “Edina Bouquet”, never seems more at home than when trying to improvise out of a situation or line that Scribbles has messed or missed.

The sitcom provenance of the dame’s name is not the only small-screen homage in the show. There’s a blatant steal from Morecambe & Wise in a gag about Ed(i)na’s singing, while the finale includes a beautifully choreographed rendition of the duo’s signature tune Bring Me Sunshine. More generally, the mixture of forestage humour, big numbers and dramatic interludes reflects the production’s debt to the variety tradition. The ad libs of Scribbles, dame and co. are buying valuable time for the changes of costume, scenery and players behind the curtain, so that the principals can earn just as much of our affection as the clowns.

Among them, Hayley Wheeler and Lewis Powysocki, as Snow White and Prince Ferdinand respectively, prove themselves especially versatile, keeping the action grounded but giving their songs lift. Powysocki’s version of I’ve Got You Under my Skin is affectingly carried, while despite a demanding amount of dialogue, dancing and vocals, Wheeler switches from one to the other effortlessly. But why is she so keen on housekeeping in “A Woman’s Touch” – hasn’t she heard the latest on the dangers of cleaning sprays? She doesn’t even get a rest at the interval either, but has photographs taken with members of the audience. A woman’s work is never done.   (Incidentally, money raised from photos as well as box office proceeds is going to forces charity SSAFA, another good reason to see the show.)

Of course, no panto is complete without its villain, and Prussia Moore does everything to live up to the name of Queen Avarice. Her commissioning of put-upon plumber Slurp (Viv Benest) to cut out Snow White’s heart is gleefully evil, but she also channels the childish petulance of Miranda Richardson as Queenie in Blackadder to play to the younger members of the audience and cast. Even when banished to the diamond mine at the denouement, she stomps her foot like she’s been denied some sweeties. Moore is clearly relishing the part.

Keeping the audience amused is not always an easy ask, though, as jester Chuckles (Daniel Bosculescu) half-jokingly acknowledges when he calls us a “tough crowd”. Perhaps because it feels a little late in the season to start a panto, or the fact that it’s colder than Christmas out there, punters are a little slow to warm up. But after a few “Boos” from the wings, not to mention a little booze from the bar at the interval, we are properly getting into the swing of things by the second act, and along with the well-earned applause, the cast are even getting cries of “Encore!”

It’s a shame Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs has such a (pardon the pun) short run, as cast and crew have put such effort into it that it deserves to be seen. So if you’re reading this before Saturday’s finale, do catch it if you can.

Matthew Grierson
February 2018

 

From → Pantomime, Reviews

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