Pantomime review: Snow White show gets it all so right

Have you ever shoved your finger in the end of a hose and turned on the tap? You feel the water pressure build up more and more behind it until ‘POW’ it explodes at force and terrifies your neighbours and pets.

Friday, 17th December 2021, 4:38 pm
A promotional image for Snow White at The Maltings in Berwick.
A promotional image for Snow White at The Maltings in Berwick.

Well, that’s kind of what has happened here because after skipping 2020 because of ‘that thing’ you may have heard people talking about, The Maltings’ professional pantomime team burst onto the stage with the energy of wind-up toys who have been turning their own keys for 730 days.

It was breathtaking – a word I don’t usually find myself using when writing pantomime.

Let’s start with the cast. Emily Lyons plays Snow White with a goofy buoyant charm that captivated the audience from the moment the curtain was raised.

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But she wasn’t your 1930’s Disney Snow White, tempering her bedazzling fairytale whimsy with a dash of her Mancunian bravado made her a princess girls wanted to be and boys wanted to go on an adventure with.

Sam Makepeace-Beach had me in fits of giggles as the vainglorious Prince Hugh – a character of cosmic ridiculousness who Sam, in his pantomime debut, was having a rip-roarious time playing this dandy-like fop and I was living for it.

Euan McIver is at his very best as Auntie Histamine. Each of McIver’s wonderfully inventive costumes are loaded with more visual gags than an entire Aardman film, so it takes a special performance to stop “the dress wearing the dame”, and I’ll eat my slippers if you can find one person who doesn’t think Euan McIver absolutely delivers!

Charlotte Summers makes a welcome return as Fairy Dandelion who, in one of the more daring comedic twists, is cleverly moonlighting a parallel pantomime that is happening just off stage.

At the end of the first act, I wrote down “I hope we get to hear Charlotte sing”, and in act two we do… as she sings a duet with Snow White… while voicing a pink unicorn puppet.

I know this sounds like I’m reviewing past performances here, but Charlotte singing on stage – in the likes of Sweeney Todd and Les Miserables – is a thing of staggering power. Here’s hoping we get to see that unleashed in Here Come The Girls next March.

Ross Graham steps out of his regular panto role of unrequited-best-friend-in-love, moving with great skill and comedic verve into the role of Bagey Lantern, the evil queen’s well-meaning but ultimately useless assistant. Ross’ “aw-shucks” glances at the audience come across like a comical cry for help to the HR department as he suffers no end of abuse from Queen Mimi.

However, this leads me onto Fidget. And Kieran Lane. Where did he come from? How much sugar does he eat?

It was like Jim Carey’s entire career and every show on CBeebies happening all at once in the body of one man! And I loved every second of it.

From the shrill screeching voice, to the boundless enthusiasm of a six-year-old trying Creamola Foam for the first time, Fidget is an absolutely knackering comedy character for the ages and it, to quote Ru Paul’s Drag Race fans, “gave me life”.

Judging by the delight on everyone’s faces in the crowd, I was not alone in feeling this way. I could feel people smiling behind me whenever he blasted onto the stage.

So that just leaves Wendy Payn, the genius creator of this production, who was clearly relishing her devious role as Mimi Perfection as she eggs on an enthralled packed house to boo her at every opportunity. And she gets bonus points for singing Lady Gaga.

The children’s chorus were also bringing their A-game to the stage. I saw Team Mirror, but you can bet your last roll I will be going back to see Team Apple before the show finishes its run.

James Manningham, Marc Inglis and Stuart Hanrahan all deserve credit for their technical work and Kris Caput has created a set of dream-like beauty.

Let’s stop for a moment and thank the universe for placing Wendy Payn right here in Berwick-upon-Tweed so she could give to us this endlessly inventive take on Snow White.

It’s easy to be sniffy about pantomime (I have been guilty of this in the past) with their grasping at pop-culture highlights and hammering them into new purpose-built shapes and a demanding relationship with its audience – this show does all of that with staggering unapologetic audaciousness, but it does so much more than that.

The level of creativity is staggering, with each passing second exponentially more wild and inventive and funnier than the preceding one.

Everything from the music to the gags to the numerous narrative sleights of hand send the characters and audience barrelling to the finale at break-neck pace.

If you were to try to find fault, you could be forgiven for thinking the show is ‘too clever’. It’s not. It is genius-level work, but you don’t need a degree in theatrical astrophysics to keep up.

Just know going in that the story you think you know is not the story you are going to get; It demands your attention and fully deserves it. But if anyone who has seen it tries to give you spoilers about ‘the thing’ that happens two thirds of the way into act two, shove a mince pie in their mouths and get away as fast as you can.

This twist broke my brain when I saw it and it went on to create the most daring and delightful pantomime finale I have seen.

All of which leads me to this richly-deserved all-caps proclamation: SNOW WHITE IS THE BEST PANTOMIME I HAVE SEEN AND I LOVE IT AND SO WILL YOU SO GO SEE IT!!!

Then pick your jaw up off the floor and go see it again.