Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

A new pantomime version by Eric Potts

Richmond Theatre, Surrey

(2009)

Review by John Thaxter

Just weeks since she delighted audiences with her deft middle-class drollery in Bedroom Farce at the Rose in Kingston, Jane Asher now knocks 'em cold with her sensual allure and cutting arrogance as Richmond's Wicked Queen.

This cruel but beautiful stepmother to the sweetly innocent Snow White finds the actress in total command of plot, stage and audience, a performance that makes this year's Richmond pantomime unmissable for star spotters. Watch her sly, horizontal flirtation with David Gale's toyboy Prince or her kaleidoscope of emotions when the Magic Mirror delivers bad news.

In recent years Asher has been regarded by producers as the mature version of a young lead, too seldom offered major roles in which she could excel and grow. They say no-one is writing parts for older actresses but perhaps her stage presence, comic timing and versatility may inspire some dramatist to pen a play that will exploit her fluent grasp of the subtle and the sizzling.

That said, what about the pantomime? The plot of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is of course based closely on the Disney movie of 1937, a late entrant to the world of panto, creating an awkward combination of music hall tradition with the rigid plot and visual structure of the film.

Eric Potts' new script now spends much of the first half dwelling on the clash of personalities at the court of Morgania, Queen of Moravia, before (almost reluctantly it seems) bringing on the troupe of Dwarfs as a novelty act, while the ever-present threat to Snow White's life and limb is given only two scenes.

Happily this works well, with a strong comedy performance by the exuberant Tim Vine as Muddles, magician Jonathan Shotton deceiving the eye with his sleight of hand and Stephen David as the Dame in a multitude of costume changes.

Most of the routines for the six-strong dance troupe are joined by Sapphire Elia's demure Snow White who is not only a nifty mover but also proves a suprisingly strong song belter. But our pantomime expectations are best served by Vine, especially when he shares the stage with four small juveniles from the audience who, on the official first night, proved to be talkative lawyers taking after their Dads' professions - an unexpected development he handled with good humoured aplomb.

I should also add that no expense has been spared in creating an array of dazzling costumes in colourful silks, brocade and cloth of gold - particularly for the wedding party walk down at the end of the evening, helping to restore Richmond Theatre's reputation as the true home of Christmas pantomime.