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Charles Court Opera: Snow White in the Seven Months of Lockdown

There’s a family version and an adult version of this panto. I don’t think I’ve ever seen children at the King’s Head Theatre in person, so I wanted to see quite how ‘adult’ the adult edition would be. Well, it strays far enough from what would generally be considered to be ‘family-friendly’ to qualify as an adults-only production. At the same time, while there is strong language and references that would be inappropriate for tender ears, Snow White in the Seven Months of Lockdown is not exactly on a par with the likes of Dick Comes Again: Bigger, Longer, Harder! or Jack Off The Beanstalk.

SNOW WHITE - John Savournin (Snow White) Photo Ali Wright.
SNOW WHITE – John Savournin (Snow White) Photo Ali Wright.
That isn’t to say it doesn’t have its smutty moments: “As the receptionist said at the sperm bank, thank you all for coming”. The quality of the camerawork here is high, as are the lighting effects. The characters’ costumes and the production’s set are so colourful that, taken together, the whole thing looks like a children’s television show. There are, fortunately, or unfortunately, topical references in the script – nothing new for pantomime, but there’s no escape from the events (or rather, non-events) of 2020 that are perhaps better best forgotten. The Wicked Queen (Jennie Jacobs) quite likes it that her kingdom is in lockdown, and there’s even an entire song about washing hands, wearing face coverings and social distancing.

And how’s this for a punchline: “That’s a coronavirus joke. It takes about two weeks to get it.” Snow White (John Savournin) has a strong – wait for it – baritone (a juxtaposition with a capital J), and glides across the stage with such grace and elegance that her stated occupation as a housekeeper comes as a surprise. There are significant departures from the usual Snow White narrative, and while few attend the pantomime for the plot in any event, this one is impressive and remarkably thoughtful.

There are interactive ‘viewer choice’ elements to the show. One is never invited to leave one’s seat and join in a dance or anything of the sort – it’s a case of choosing between different options, which supposedly determines how the story will play out. I say ‘supposedly’, as I deliberately went for an option at one point that went against the spirit of pantomime, only to be told I had actually selected the other option and my vote doesn’t really count. The production could also have included captions for the hearing impaired – I am not sure if it was a mere oversight or a budgetary constraint.

The action is briskly-paced, and I had some fun trying to identify the various songs from which modified lyrics appeared in a big medley number, which seemed to have everything from Les Misérables to The Beatles. Matthew Kellett shines in his versatility as all of the Seven Dwarves, and while even this eccentric version of the Snow White tale couldn’t end without a kiss, the Covid-secure measures taken to do it brought a smile to your reviewer’s face.

Charming, and bombastic, this production rises well to the challenges of not having the usual sort of audience interaction that pantomime is known for.

4 stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

This Christmas the King’s Head Theatre is closed to live performances, so Charles Court Opera are delivering a panto like no other by moving online and bringing their enduring annual mix of toe-tapping music, side-splitting gags and festive frivolity to the comfort of the nation’s living rooms for the very first time!

So, sit back, relax and get your magic mirrors ready to meet a cast of familiar and not-so-familiar characters in this cheeky and inventive take on the age-old story. With both family-friendly and adult-only versions available to stream on the device of your choosing, this unique panto experience is an unmissable Christmas treat for all ages.

Cast: Emily Cairns (as Prince Larry), Meriel Cunningham (as Harry, his valet), Jennie Jacobs (as The Wicked Queen), Matthew Kellett (as all the Dwarfs), and John Savournin (as Snow White) and featuring the voices of Mark Gatiss, Ian Hallard and Marcus Fraser.

King’s Head Theatre presents
Charles Court Opera’s

‘Snow White in the Seven Months
of Lockdown’
an online pantomime
Monday 14 December – Thursday 31 December
Duration: 60 mins
https://www.kingsheadtheatre.com/

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