This Snow White is as traditional as panto gets (for better or worse)
There are countless edgy pantomimes playing this Christmas which subvert traditional narratives. This is not one of them. It really is just the Snow White story, plus the familiar panto tropes: winsome lovers, nasty villain, genial dame, and a few comedy acts. Good triumphs over evil in under two hours.
The lack of creative ambition is somewhat disheartening. Alan McHugh’s plodding script is weighed down by dreadfully hoary gags, including the requisite but unimaginative local references; the actors have quips at the ready for when those fall flat. But, steered by a calmly professional company, this really is the definition of harmless family fun.
Musical theatre actress Ruthie Henshall soaks up the boos with aplomb as the scheming queen, and channels Bette Midler in Hocus Pocus for a bombastic rendition of I Put a Spell On You. X Factor’s Brenda Edwards is stranded in a superfluous role (“The Spirit of Pantomime” – basically a less active fairy godmother), but supplies powerhouse vocals.
Lee Mead and Hannah Lowther have zero chemistry as the supposedly loved-up Prince and Snow White, and zero personality too – it’s a case of the bland leading the bland. A royal comparison (“Everyone says we’ll make the perfect couple, like Meghan and Harry,” frets the Prince ahead of their meeting) does gain topicality through the Sussexes’ new Netflix documentary. Given the perfunctorily staged romance here, it feels like more of a diss to the Sussexes than perhaps was intended.
Still, Mead, winner of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Joseph reality show (back in 2007), obligingly reprises his Any Dream Will Do. Lowther, who got her break more recently via TikTok, sings and dances perfectly nicely, and presumably draws a younger crowd.
More entertaining is Matthew Kelly’s jovial dame, sporting increasingly outlandish costumes; John Archer as magician Oddjob, who on the night dealt marvellously with a hesitant child volunteer; and Dick and Dom as the fast-talking court jesters – and the best at marshalling the audience. A number where this quartet thrust their pelvises in order to bang saucepans, hung like codpieces, with wooden spoons is, well, unforgettable.
Jonathan Kiley’s production repurposes several pop songs, to little effect; better are the Disney classics such as Whistle While You Work and Heigh-Ho. The seven dwarfs (actors shuffling on their knees with small puppet legs – I did say it was old-fashioned panto) are underused, but the ensemble keeps the energy up with their enthusiastic dance numbers.
Add in so much gaudy glitter on the fairy tale-turreted set that it looks like a Claire’s shop exploded, a live band, pyrotechnics and fake snow, and it feels like an occasion – if hardly a novel one.
Until Dec 31. Tickets: atgtickets.com