Even at this time of year, you can have too much of a good thing; three hours for a panto is asking a lot of an audience. And the show is packed with all kinds of goodies, with guest appearances from the Honey Monster and Ken Dodd (the Mirror), plus some pretty clever ideas. But it’s atmosphere which makes a panto, and a shame this particular performance turned out at best a draw for audience participation and the hard working cast.
Unfortunately, songs and singing, though pretty good, were occasionally defeated by sound and music, the dialogue hindered by crackling microphones. And while Steve Coughlin and the pantomime store’s staging, if not technically sophisticated, was simply effective, lighting design (Dave Sherlock and Sarah Reedman) was not altogether spot on. But let’s concentrate on the good bits, for instance, the Seven Dwarfs/Garden Gnomes themselves, cleverly updated (oh yes they were; see for yourself), with a craftily Tardis like cottage interior. The traditional Transformation finale as splendid as the scene where the Wicked Queen casts her evil spell: hum along to ‘Carmina Burana’ (though it rather drowned her out), imagine a Heavy Metal video, and you’ll get the picture, thanks to musical director Eric White.
Puppetry in the Haunted Forest was nicely done, enhanced by cute kiddies in even cuter costumes, with the cast in general well dressed by Pat Watts, Marie & Eve and Splitz: Snow White, naturally, Fairy Snowflake (Caroline Barnes, as lively as she was lovely), and Queen Grizelda’s surprisingly tasteful outfits; Pauline Daniels doing a first class job as usual. The Royal Tax Collector, Adam Curtis, was clad in well designed black togs making him even more sinister - Prince Rupert had to contend with boots more like waders; would have fitted a mountain lion, never mind Puss. But Russ Spencer dispatched all his problems with panache, to win over Kate Mellors’ delightful Snow White. And finally, comedy is of course the mainspring of pantomime; Pete Price (Muddles) and Roy Brandon (Nurse Glucose) are so adept, they could do this in their sleep.
As there don’t seem to be that many productions of Snow White, if you’ve lost count of Cinders and don’t fancy yet another Aladdin, why not try this for size? Particularly since it’s set in a beautifully restored theatre, and one with a fantastic view - a match hopefully, for future reviews.