Review: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (Theatre Royal Plymouth)
Duncan James and Lesley Joseph star in this year's pantomime in Plymouth
Oh dear. My heart sank as the band launched into the first big number of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Here we go, then. A bastardised version of a screechy pop song, a collection of varied pantomime babes, choreography last popular four decades ago and a garish, in-your-face, primary colours wardrobe and set that was guaranteed to give you a headache before we'd even reached the Forbidden Forest. (All together now: "Ooooh!")
I should have believed in the magic of panto a little more. Because what happens almost every year is that, much like Cinderella's mice and pumpkin, a little fairy dust is sprinkled and everything is transformed into a happy, sparkly world guaranteed to leave you with a huge grin on your face.
It is, of course, down to a lot of hard work and effort on and off stage and let's start with someone rarely mentioned in the panto context – the director. Here it is Jonathan Kiley who has to wave his magic wand and bring together different talents, keeping traditional elements of panto fresh while keeping Generation Xbox happy.
Lots of pyrotechnics, a Magic Mirror and a dragon flying over the audience add some modern pzazz. But it is the well-honed talents of the panto veterans that save the day. Lesley Joseph as Queen Lucretia, Snow White's wicked stepmother, draws on every ounce of her experience to drive the narrative forward. She harnesses the power of Dorien in Birds of a Feather and there's a nod to her Strictly Come Dancing performance too as she relishes the role.
Even Blue's Duncan James, a panto babe himself with only two previous outings under his belt, understands the rules – hands on hips, handsome pout and at some stage you will lose your shirt (that one is for all the mums out there).
All credit goes to Ben Nickless as Muddles for his contribution. He was relentless in his pursuit of a laugh and turned a sober, mixed bag of a pre-Christmas weeknight audience into a bunch of shrieking kids. He rattled through silly sight gags, delivered puns with aplomb and entertained with a succession of clever impersonations. Not everyone will have got the saucy jokes (the naughty ones go straight over the heads of little ones) but we all love a bit of water pistol action and you should never underestimate the comedy appeal of the flash of some bright-coloured underwear.
The Dwarfs came in the form of actors shuffling along on their knees (anything Shrek's Lord Farquaad can do…) but they were great fun and there was also solid support from Charlotte Haines as Snow White and Jack Land Noble as Dame Betty.
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs runs at Theatre Royal Plymouth until 14 January.