Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
Fairfield Halls, Croydon
2014 sees Evolution Productions present its fourth pantomime at the Fairfield Halls, Croydon. Each and every year they get bigger and better and this year's offering is the slickest and silliest to date.
One of the youngest pantomime titles, Paul Hendy has done a sterling job in panto-mising the Brothers Grimm tale. Not only has he seamlessly interspersed a Dame, he manages to keep the pace of the show moving through a number of scenes, which is no easy feat considering the number of characters and settings that need introducing; from the Wicked Queen and inhabitants of Carpathia Castle to the Seven Dwarfs of the diamond mine.
So often the Prince can be underwritten and comes across as smug, arrogant or plain, but Gareth Gates's handsome royal brings the Principal Boy into the 21st century. His fine-voiced Charming is charismatic, romantic, witty and not afraid to send himself up, the butt of many a joke as the rest of the cast keep misidentifying him as Pop Idol's Darius.
Gates shows great knowledge and respect for the role in never overstepping the comedy mark, which in this production is delivered by Croydon regular Quinn Patrick and newcomer Jack Glanville.
Glanville is the Ashcroft Theatre's best Comic for many years, a country bumpkin of a Muddles: endearingly warm hearted and a little bit simple. Combined with Quinn Patrick's anarchic Nurse, the two drive the comedy and work the audience with skill.
When the children remain silent during Snow White's attempted murder, the two use it to their advantage in a piece of ad-libbing that every performer dreams the opportunity of having. Not only does this increase the shouts for Nurse Nellie and Muddles to stop the second time round, it is even more effective as the comedy moment has been broken and swiftly dealt with, the contrast in mood demonstrating the many levels upon which pantomime works.
As Snow White, Witney White plays a bright Princess with a beautiful voice. The scenes between her and Gareth Gates capture the excited nature of a blossoming romance between childhood sweethearts.
One of the most touching moments of the show comes in the Second Act when the dwarfs remind Snow White not to let anyone enter the cottage. As they leave, chief dwarf Sarge, played by Michael Walter, sings Snow White a beautiful song thanking her for all she has done for the magnificent seven and how much she means to them.
This, juxtaposed with act two's Elvis-inspired finale, provides Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs with light and shade, so important and oft forgotten in pantomime today.
Completing the line-up, Siani Owen's menacing Queen Ivannah is pure evil with a spine-chilling cackle and a powerful voice to pierce any soul. Using 'Simon Cowell' as the Magic Mirror allows for some great interplay between the two 'Villains', although Hendy's plot hole still remains when the audience calls the Magic Mirror having earlier been told only Queen Ivannah has the power to do so.
As the show's Morcambe and Wise inspired overture suggests, this is a pantomime full of sunshine. Bursting with silliness and sentiment, love and laughter, Snow White has set the bar extremely high for next year's Cinderella.
Reviewer: Simon Sladen