Surely only a true curmudgeon could fail to love this bonkers and brilliant little show. As a newcomer to the work of Charles Court Opera, I assumed that the term "boutique pantomime" referred to something a bit precious and rarified: how joyously I was proved wrong. This is one of the funniest, campest shows in town and I am only sorry that it is a festive offering, as it is the kind of thing I would like to revisit every couple of months.
Inspired (extremely loosely) by the story of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, our heroine Snow White is an exceptionally tall, game Northern lass (think Eric Idle meets Corrie's Eileen Grimsha, with the fashion sense of Minnie Mouse and the hair of Morticia Addams). She's been improbably widowed by soul legend Barry White (whose supercool presence hangs heavy over the proceedings) and is keeping house for the seven dwarfs (who have had to change their names owing to a 'Cease & Desist' notice from Disney). Enter the Prince who falls for Snow White (who wouldn't?!) much to the annoyance of the Evil Queen and... well, you know how this is going to pan out.
Except you don't. Part of the fun is in how this endlessly inventive show - way cleverer than it looks on the surface - frequently confounds one's expectations. The interpolation of songs - everything from Elton John through Paula Abdul to Frozen - is so much more inspired than in an average pantomime: the sequence in the second half that sees "One Day More" from Les Mis spliced with numerous iconic pop numbers is verging on the virtuosic. On top of all that there are truly, but lovably, terrible jokes, some genuinely enjoyable audience participation, and enough goodwill to light a hundred Christmas trees.
The cast are uniformly terrific: author/deviser John Savourin as Snow White is the best panto dame I've ever seen (possibly the only time Snow White herself has ever been the dame), hysterically funny but also strangely sympathetic and possessing a glorious, er, basso profundo - watch out for her ever changing head bands. At the other end of the vocal spectrum, Andrea Tweedale is a thrilling soprano Evil Queen, as funny as she is vocally proficient. Amy J Payne's purple prince and Nichola Jolley as his unfortunate sidekick are just wonderful, and Matthew Kellett delivers a crazy tour de force as all of the reimagined dwarfs. They all sing like angels, adding another layer of enjoyment to what is already a deliciously deranged confection.
William Fricker's set is colourful, adaptable and cute - a miracle of invention given the King's Head theatre's tiny stage, Mia Wallden's costumes look lavish and Nicholas Holdridge's lighting is hugely effective. In a show this off-the-wall hilarious it would be easy to overlook the classy musical contributions of David Eaton but this is a pantomime that is as easy on the ear as it is hard on the funny bone.
I can't recommend this highly enough. Unless you have zero sense of humour, or are completely dead inside. In which case I would say Merry Christmas... and move along, there's nothing to see here.