Brothers Grimm/Philip Dart
Buxton Opera House
Buxton Opera House
10 December 2016 to 01 January 2017
There’s no better way to fully experience a panto than to see it at a matinée in the responsive company of 500 primary school kids. They whoop and clap from the start, especially when Snow White and the Prince kiss on first meeting. When the panto is Snow White in this fairy-tale white and gold-encrusted theatre, you can’t beat it.
In essence, of course, the show follows the traditional tale of the Brothers Grimm, with the significant addition of Muddles, the wicked Queen Belladonna’s jester, enthusiastically realised by Matthew Jay Ryan. He holds the show together, really connects with the kids and gets them involved. He even wins the rapper crown in contest with Belladona.
With 15 scenes in two-and-a-half hours (maybe a bit long for the youngsters), the show is very much intended for a family audience. All the usual features are there, like the spooky “behind you” comedy and the slapstick exchange in the castle kitchen between Muddles and his outrageous mum Dame Brenda Bakewell.
James Holmes returns as the Dame. For some reason, lost on me, he plays it as a gormless northerner. Inevitably perhaps, the kitchen scene sort of apes “Bake Off” (which I’ve never seen) and he is sort of Mary Berry. It doesn’t work, but the kids love the slapstick. Far more successful is the take-off of The Sound of Music in the snowy mountain scene.
Pivotal to the show is the exceptional performance of the experienced Anna Stolli as the eminently boo-able Queen, who has the look of a glamorous Hollywood star. As Snow White, Lucy Dixon, known for Hollyoaks and Waterloo Road on TV, is straight out of Disney and is well-matched by Brad Veitch as her Prince. I also particularly enjoyed Christopher Laishley’s Snivel, servant to the Queen who can’t bring himself to kill Snow White.
The Seven Dwarfs, played by locally-trained youngsters, appear without having a significant role. Perhaps they might have been made more of. The team of eight dancers, bright and smiling, are getting into their nicely co-ordinated stride.
The lively musical element, which runs throughout, is again in the capable hands of MD Matt Pallant with the tireless support of the talented Adrian Treacher, drummer, and Sam Pegg, bassist.
This is the 25th panto production written and directed by Philip Dart, who knows how to push all the buttons.
Reviewer: Philip Radcliffe