Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

Richmond Theatre

Jo Brand as Queen Lucretia Credit: Craig Sugden
Jon Clegg as Muddles Credit: Craig Sugden

Following on from the delightful Peter Pan’ at Richmond Theatre last year, it’s the turn of Snow White and her (not so vertically challenged) seven dwarfs to grace this beautiful theatre not far from the banks of the Thames. The result is a mix of comedy delight and an air of predictability that left the audience full of cheer. This is a traditional family panto done well, which is perhaps not surprising given that this is a Qdos production, with their 36 years of panto producing experience.

The first masterstroke from Qdos is the casting and return of impressionist Jon Clegg of Britain’s Got Talent fame, following on from his brilliant turn as Smee in Peter Pan last year. Clegg is a veteran of pantomime, in his 19th year, and this experience is evident once again in a terrific performance. Clegg is a warm and funny addition to the story with a consistent connection with the audience and a host of convincing impressions.

Clegg reached the final of Britain’s got Talent and it’s no surprise when considering his work on this show. We are treated to a range of characters, where Clegg moves with ease from Marge Simpson to Boris Johnson, quite apt given this was election night. The impressions are cleverly intertwined into the performance and seemed to hit a spot with audience members of all ages.

The real delight is Clegg’s relationship with his on-stage mother, Nurse Nancy, the pantomime dame played with terrific comic timing by Jason Sutton. Like Clegg, Sutton seems at ease with interacting with the audience and his innuendos and wordplay always seem to work without ever becoming tiresome. The DVD sketch performed by Clegg and Sutton typifies the chemistry between the two performers.

The use of seven ‘non-dwarf’ performers on their knees with puppet legs is a clever device executed effectively by each performer. There is a strong sense of energy and detail in the characterisation of each role and the act one finale of "You lift me up" is a particular highlight. The only disappointment is that the dwarfs aren’t used more regularly, though perhaps this was more a demand of the script rather than to save the performer’s knees.

Jo Brand is the focus of the marketing with this show and predictably takes on the role as the Wicked Stepmother. Predictable is the appropriate word with this performance with the one-liners seemingly a repeat of Brand’s stand-up routine from years ago. Perhaps this is just what the audience has paid to see, but I found the most interesting moment the less expected rendition of "I Put a Spell on You". Here, Brand shows a strong sense of musical timing and delivers the words with a gravelly darkness which adds depth to the role. There is no doubt that, if you want classic Jo Brand, you will not be disappointed, but it was the less obvious sections that I found most engaging.

Overall, this did feel like a very professional, well thought out performance and the audience of various ages responded well throughout, delivering the classic "oh no, you’re not" lines with great gusto. Certainly, the support of a number of local stage school dancers who show commitment and expression throughout helps to keep the story moving. James Darch as Prince Harry also deserves a mention, if only for his work in the tongue-twister scene which is a real crowd-pleaser.

The design aspects of the performance help to frame the show and set the tone expertly. The set and costume design in particular is full of colour and light and helps to create an atmosphere of fun and frivolity. In contrast, the use of video animation for the Magic Mirror works well in creating a dark, animalistic voice of doom. This contrasts well with the lighter sections and is more in keeping with the shadowy aspects of the original Grimm's tale.

If a traditional pantomime with genuine laughs is something you are looking for this Christmas, then Snow White at Richmond Theatre should not leave you disappointed.

Reviewer: John Johnson

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