YEOVIL Octagon has its best pantomime ever this year, as Snow White bites her poisoned apple, the Magnificent Seven dwarfs dig their diamonds and the region’s finest dame Steve Bennett proves himself to be an arch improviser and master of comic timing. This is the second Evolution pantomime at the Octagon, which now, with the closure of the Brewhouse in Taunton, has the added responsibility of providing pantomime for a large area of population in Somerset and north west Dorset.
Paul Hendy of Evolution wrote the very funny script for this Snow White, and Steve Bennett, a favourite dame with Devon audiences for many years, not only moves east to star at the Octagon, but also directs with a keen eye for every opportunity for laughter and fun.
He knows, as do the rest of the company, the importance of pantomime in the scheme of live theatre and its continuing audiences. Some try to write the genre off as the dying throes of music hall and variety, or the last refuge of fading TV stars, but its function is both indispensable and historic. This is the first time most children will encounter a live show, and can turn them off for ever or instill them with enchantment and magic that will develop through a long theatre-going life.
This Snow White is a joy.
It tells the story with gusto, with a funny-but-scary Wicked Queen (a role honed by Sarah Aveling in Weymouth), the classic double act of Eddie Dredge as Muddles and Steve Bennett’s Nurse Nellie, Victoria McCabe’s picture-perfect Snow White and the best characterised dwarfs I have ever seen. Even the chorus have a chance at speaking roles.
The sets and costumes, original to Evolution, are spectacularly colourful and atmospheric, and there is a full-cast tribute that’ll have you actin’ wild as a bug on a cherry tree.
There’s a showstopper moment for Snow White and Michael Walter as dwarf leader Sarge, and the rest of the seven, Brian Wheeler, George Appleby, Chris Brockwell, Jamie Legg, Andrew Martin and Ben Wilcox, are central to the story as well as the title.
The move from pantomime tradition comes with casting a man as the principal boy, but Daniel Oliver is a handsome and humorous prince, and looks good in tights!
In a gold star season for pantomimes and Christmas shows in the south west, this is probably the funniest you will see, and if anyone knows how to build a character and whip the audience into a frenzy of anticipation, participation and noise, it is Steve Bennett.
The show has already topped all box office records at the Octagon, and it is on until 5th January.