PANTOMIME is a peculiarly British phenomenon, so when Crewkerne boy, Octagon favourite and successful actor and singer Thom Ford introduced his American wife Kathryn Nash to the genre, it was only natural for the versatile Texas-born actress to give it a go.
She’s a perfect Snow White in Thom’s favourite theatre in Yeovil this year, leading a terrific cast through a brilliantly inventive and funny show written by Evolution co-founder Paul Henty.
Last year funny man Gordon Cooper put on the damely petticoats for the first time, and now, as Nurse Nellie, he has developed into a sensational “fat man in a frock”, a take-no-prisoners dame with quick fire repartee, twinkling toes and timing in the set-piece scenes honed from years on stage (with Steve Bennett, among others).
Jack Glanville is the perfect foil as the loveable Muddles, and Thom Ford joins the comic team as Herman, a German flunkey fawning on wicked queen Ivannah but nursing a rock god ambition. It would be a pity to tell you how it all turns out, but it’s well worth waiting for.
Bournemouth resident Lizzie Frances makes her ninth Octagon panto appearance, as a stylish and dominating Queen, plotting the downfall of her beauty rival. And tall, handsome Ryan Hall makes a welcome change from the strangulated tenors who sometimes get cast as Prince Charming. He can REALLY sing and dance.
There have been various controversies about the casting of people with dwarfism in the roles of the seven dwarfs, and often “real” dwarfs or children with large hats are given little or nothing to do other than avoid singing the Disney-copyrighted Hey Ho and marching about with spades on their shoulders. Not so in director Dorcas Wood and choreographer William Maskell’s production. Their well characterised roles include as much singing and dancing as the rest of the company. For Brian Wheeler, a veteran of Harry Potter, Star Wars and many other films, this Octagon pantomime marks his 40th season in Snow White. He’s joined by Hampshire native Jack Hilton, whose day job is as a chef, Dean Whatton, Andrew Martin, Geoffrey Sergison, Choon Tan (also a noted bodybuilder) and student Paddy Holden.
The six adult villagers are sensational dancers and they are joined by two teams of eight young dancers, having the time of their lives on the Octagon stage.
There are so many original ideas, so many clever takes on old routines and so much talent on stage here. Since Evolution took over the Yeovil pantomime eight years ago, the standard has steeply and steadily improved. This Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs would hold its own at any theatre across the country, but retains its West Country charm and its wicked local jokes.
It’s an ideal show for all the family, and it’s on until 5th January. There are still a handful of seats left. And if you are a handsome man, unless you are seriously extrovert, don’t be tempted to take one near the front. Nurse Nellie might just have you in her sights!
Photographs by Len Copland