Christmas hits once more and theatrically that means it’s panto season – oh no it’s not, oh yes it is, etc – and if you like your panto with an added twist, then you should get yourself over to The King’s Head in Islington for Charles Court Opera’s offering Mirror Mirror.
Far, far away, there is a land ruled over by an evil Queen (Andrea Tweedale) who seems to have a very close connection with her huge and extremely loquacious mirror (voiced by Simon Masterton-Smith) which keeps egging her on to do nasty things to her people. Living in the village is young Snow White (John Savourin) who keeps house for the seven dwarves (Matthew Kellett – yes he play all seven of them). One day, into the town rides Prince Larry (Amy J Payne) who has been sent out, along with his loyal valet Harry (Nichola Jolley) by his royal mother to find himself a worthy bride. What is the secret of the mirror? Will the Queen change her attitude to the peasants? Will Snow get over her former love? And just who will Larry marry? These questions and many more will be raised and answered over the course of the next two hours.
I’ve always thought that the world is ready for a traditional pantomime that is aimed squarely at the adult audience without resorting completely to smut or bad language and John Savourin (who also directs this piece) has really delivered with Mirror Mirror. From the moment that Andrea Tweedale’s queen stormed onto the stage, all sparkling costume, sequined hat and glitter eyeshadow and started telling the audience – there’s no fourth wall in panto – about her plans to build a very special bridge across the river in her kingdom, I knew this was going to be a winner and I wasn’t disappointed. The show shines from start to finish. John’s writing is spot on – with some of the worst, and by definition best, puns I have ever heard and the most wonderful line about a new range of perfume that still has me chuckling this morning.
There are songs throughout – every member of the cast is an accomplished singer – and some wonderful work has gone into keeping the spirit of the original song whilst changing the words to reflect the needs of the show and the character(s) singing. The music is delivered by a small band under the direction of Musical Director David Eaton and, unusually for such a small venue, it doesn’t drown out the singing.
Most of the traditional elements of pantomime are present. There are cuddly animals, audience participation, sweets being thrown out to the crowd and an audience singalong which my side of the auditorium won by a mile. There is even a phrase, which I am definitely not going to repeat here, that the audience has to shout whenever Snow makes certain comment. Needless to say we were pretty useless at that one.
The cast work really hard and delivers a superb set of characters that keep within the traditions of pantomime, but with an edge of surprise. So, Snow White is a very tall man with a deep voice and a penchant for changing her hair bows every five minutes. The Queen is a soprano singing woman who dresses like a traditional pantomime dame and Prince Larry, with his purple codpiece and Valet Harry are both girls playing boys. Even the dwarves – re-named to avoid upsetting a Mr M Mouse and friends – are normal sized. And it all works so well. It is obvious that this cast is having a thoroughly enjoyable time and their enjoyment spills out into the highly appreciative audience.
I also want to praise the set. Designer William Fricker has taken every centimetre of the small King’s Head stage and used it to design a really effective and versatile set that, even when the entire cast is on it in their wonderful costumes by Mia Wallden, never seems crowded awkward to move around.
Having read the above, you may have thought that I liked and enjoyed Mirror Mirror. You would be wrong – I absolutely loved the show from start to finish as did my companion who wanted to give it five stars at the end of the first act.
Mirror Mirror is one of those shows where I started smiling at the start and sitting here reliving it in my mind, I’m still smiling now. This isn’t just a Christmas Cracker of a show, Mirror Mirror is an entire box of Harrods Extra-special gold-plated crackers of a show and I really don’t think I can sing its praises enough.
Review by Terry Eastham
Mirror Mirror: A Snow White Pantomime
Charles Court Opera and the King’s Head Theatre are proud to announce that Charles Court Opera’s legendary annual ‘Boutique panto’ will be transferring to its new home at the King’s Head Theatre for 2015 after eight glorious years at the Rosemary Branch Theatre.
This year sees their uniquely alternative, inventive take on the tale of Snow White, and anyone who has seen any of their 8 Boutique Pantos to date knows to expect the unexpected, a dazzling array of musical numbers, sung by a stunning cast – and you can bet that there’ll be plenty of puns in the frame! The cast will feature regular Charles Court Opera compatriots, including founder and resident dame (“Outrageously funny” Time Out) John Savournin.
From adults-only performances through to children’s matinees, Charles Court Opera’s boutique pantos are perfect for families, couples, groups of friends or office parties – and have become a legendary part of North London’s Christmas (Time Out Critic’s Choice 2014), with this year’s promising to be bigger, better, and a glittering treat for all. Join them in their new home this year – don’t miss out!