MIKE Akers, well known for his work at Bristol Old Vic, wrote his new take on the Snow White story, first seen in 2018, for a cabaret audience and a girl band in London.
Now it reappears on stage at Salisbury Playhouse until 31st December, picking up the pastel delights of the Wiltshire theatre’s wonderful Beauty and the Beast (also 2018), moments of cod Sondheim and Into the Woods, and moles, standing in for other pantomimic persons of restricted growth. This is seen as an alternative panto for Salisbury, which, like every other theatre in the country has battled against fluctuating covid rates, new variants and even less predictable governmental responses. With a cast of five and a theme of a poisonous obsession with beauty and youth, it might be the ideal show for the times.
But it IS a Christmas show, and, this year particularly, it needs to be for all the family, so it needs jokes, involvement and participation as well as the undoubted energy that the company puts into it. Directed by Gareth Machin, designed by James Button with extra songs by MD Christopher Peake, it manages to mash a number of favourite pantomime themes into a story of murderous jealousy inevitably defeated by goodness.
There are terrific performances by Martha Pothen as “Auntie” Trish, Consuela Rolle as Snow, Jake Mitchell as the pink-clad Federico, Greg Barnett as the King and Rebecca Cooper as the Queen, all playing additional characters when the need arises.
I saw the show on the last preview night, and I’m sure some of the glitches will be ironed out, though a 20 minute delay in bringing up the curtain, with no explanation, doesn’t cut it with an audience of excited children. Some of them made their first loo visit even before the show started!
And the “transformations” were so clunky as to eliminate any chance of the magic which is so important in pantomime – the first time most of the young audience ever sees a live show.