Snow White and the Seven Dwarves at Edinburgh Festival Theatre – review
The Edinburgh panto finds a new temporary home and continues through to 22 January
The Edinburgh pantomime sets the tills ringing at the city's King's Theatre for nearly two months every winter. Its regular home is shut for a multi-year (and long overdue) refurbishment, however, so this year they've decamped to their sister theatre across town. That's why it has opened so much later than usual in 2022, but its run continues for more than three weeks into January. The Edinburgh Festival Theatre is more used to housing plays or ballet at this time of year, but they've glammed it up beautifully for the panto, and you'd certainly never detect that the show wasn't in its natural habitat.
All the old jokes are there, that's for sure, most of which are forcefully local in nature. We had jokes about accents, neighbourhoods, football teams and the tram works, every Edinburgh traveller's top hate. The audience's whoops were as much of recognition as of humour, and that's something glorious that really only panto delivers. Sure, there weren't many marks for originality, and having seen the Glasgow panto that's currently being staged by the same producers, I sometimes felt like I was playing spot the difference between the two.
That doesn't make it any less fun, though. In fact, I enjoyed this one more than the Glasgow show, though that might be because I got more of the Edinburgh jokes. It helps that it's a visual spectacle, with some lovely trompe l'oeil sets, marvellously garish costumes and some scenic set pieces including a flying sleigh and a pretty splendid dragon.
Most importantly, however, the performances are good. Allan Stewart and Grant Stott are the Edinburgh panto's dream pairing every year. Stewart plays the Dame with terrific energy and manages to squeeze himself into an untold quantity of outrageous costumes as the evening goes on, each one more attention-grabbing than the last. Stott has a terrific time sending up himself – and his beloved football team, Hibs – as Lord Lucifer, the nasty spirit from the magic mirror. He knows exactly what the Edinburgh audience wants and he's not afraid to give it to them, even tweaking his accent at times to the purpose. More than once the audience got so caught up in booing him that the show threatened to grind to a halt! Liz Ewing's evil Queen Dragonella gets slightly lost in his shadow, but that will surely change as the run develops.
Francesca Ross and Brian James Leys as Snow White and the Prince are unavoidably sickly-sweet in comparison, but Jordan Young's Muddles generates likeable chaos, balanced by Clare Gray as the grungy Princess Lavinia. The chorus performs with all the OTT vigour you'd expect, and their glittering big dance numbers are as camp as, well, Christmas.
Not everything worked, and several sections had me glancing at my watch, such as an over-long set of puns about a missing shirt, or a protracted sequence of dance moves taken from songs. More interestingly, neither the script nor the production can think of much to do with the seven dwarves, who get very little stage time. Are the producers worried about the implications of using them for comedy? Maybe there's a debate to be had there, but it feels like a waste, nevertheless.
Largely, however, I was won over. One sequence that involved lip-syncing to classic songs was flabby as heck, but I laughed along in spite of myself, if only because it was the perfect cover to smuggle ten minutes of sex jokes past an audience of under-tens. Ah, panto; a great British tradition, indeed.