Snow White and Seven Dwarfs

Jonathan Kiley and Tudor Davies with original music and lyrics by Olly Ashmore
Qdos Entertainment
Orchard Theatre, Dartford
(2011)

Ann Widdecombe & Craig Revel Horwood

Having previously played the role in Llandudno and Crawley, this year Craig Revel Horwood’s Wicked Queen Lucretia comes to Dartford complete with Ann Widdecombe as the Villainess’ Widdy-in-Waiting.

Revel Horwood’s Lucretia struts across the stage in an array of frocks more glamorous than those found on Strictly Come Dancing. Following the tradition of Lily Savage’s Wicked Queen, Revel Horwood’s cross-dressed damsel is in no way a Dame, but of the Drag Queen variety and sashays, sways, sidesteps and shimmies as would be expected from the Strictly judge. All of his catchphrases are there, pushed to the fore in a rendition of Sister Act’s ‘Fabulous, Baby!’ and on many an occasion Revel Horwood proves that his singing is as strong as his dancing.

There has been much hype about Ann Widdecombe’s debut in pantomime and her Widdy-in-Waiting is most definitely a crowd pleaser. She sends herself up, has plenty of politics patter and even recreates that now famous floor spin from her dancing days. Whether she will recreate the role next year when the production transfers to High Wycombe, only time will tell.

For a venue with a capacity of 825, it is somewhat of a disappointment to find an absence of live music. Recorded backing tracks are used for all musical numbers and also constitute the voices of the Seven Dwarves. With such a large proportion of the production’s sound pre-recorded at times one may as well be watching a film, although the dancers with some strong choreography from Gerry Zuccarello give the numbers their all and try to inject some energy into this lagging show. The over amplification of all musical numbers makes it almost impossible to understand Olly Ashmore’s song lyrics which is a great shame as his original score captures the essence of pantomime superbly.

With the production well and truly centring on Revel Horwood’s cross-dressed Wicked Queen and therefore devoid of a Dame, there is little time for comic capers and schoolboy silliness. Nick Weir’s Muddles isn’t even afforded a comedy foil in Herman the Henchman and appears to be merely going through the motions in his bland costume. With legs and arms flailing around like an awkward jellyfish, his constant movement becomes rather annoying. Some pantomime staples are there, but they feel rushed and the cast seem reluctant to feed off the audience. A Busy Bee routine shoe-horned into Act Two falls flat on its face due to inexperienced pantomime performers whilst Act One’s Mirror Sequence also suffers the same fate because of an under-performed payoff.

Gregor Stewart’s Prince David of Dover and Shinead Byrne’s Snow White are a pretty pair, but it is Bex Roberts as Harold the Herald who rules in the acting stakes. Robert’s characterisation of this eccentric servant is spot on and his strong performance exposes the rest of the cast’s acting weaknesses.

The Dwarves in this production are played by a talented troupe of seven children who bring their characters to life with differing gestures, gaits and poise to communicate their individual personas. Director Tudor Davies has obviously worked hard with the junior ensemble; mask work is no easy task, but here it is performed to perfection.

The lack of comedy and over amplification create a distancing effect between audience and stage, which could easily be rectified by an injection of musicians and slapstick. Transformations are an important aspect in any pantomime and the aforementioned would help turn what is currently Queen Lucretia the Musical into an atmospheric and enjoyable Snow White.

‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs’ plays at the Orchard Theatre, Dartford until January 2012.

Reviewer: Simon Sladen