When Morgan Freeman graced the Oxford Union with his presence in 2015, he told the audience, perhaps half-jokingly, that The Shawshank Redemption was a box office flop partly because ‘shawshank redemption’ didn’t exactly roll off the tongue, and people would say ‘shanksham’ or ‘shimshock’. Here, in Snow White at the London Palladium, a seemingly long scene involving Queen Dragonella (Dawn French) acting as an intermediary between The Man In The Mirror (Julian Clary) and Muddles and Sam (both Paul Zerdin), sees an increasingly complicated tongue twister that starts off being about someone (or was it someone’s sister?) selling sushi in a shop. All I will say is that it wasn’t a flop.
Clary and French on the same stage at the same time allows for some ad-libbing, and an expletive that slipped through at the press night performance was immediately followed by profuse apologies. Often, the children in the audience, of which there were relatively few (I suspect this won’t be the case for weekday performances, and when the school holidays are on), chortled away as loudly as the grown-ups. Some of the smuttier punchlines, most of which, predictably, fall to Clary, simply went over the younger audience members’ heads. The putdowns, when they occurred, were largely aimed at public figures.
Some in the audience, like yours truly, had attended the Palladium panto before (panto having only been restored to the Palladium’s schedules in 2016), and recognised some familiar features – for instance, the children (on press night, aged between five and nine) brought on stage for the singalong number, and Sam the puppet left on stage, alone, only to find a way of interacting with the audience even without being physically attached to a ventriloquist.
There is no reason, for me at least, to complain about seeing more of the same: isn’t that what pantomime tends to be, in any event? And there’s no point attempting to fix something that isn’t broken. Last year Gary Wilmot stole the show reciting all of the London Underground stations in a Gilbert and Sullivan style number – this year, in the role of Mrs Nora Crumble, he paid tribute to the great and the good, past and present, who have appeared on the London Palladium stage, with a special mention for Sir Bruce Forsyth (1928-2017). Such was his attachment to the Palladium that his ashes have been placed under the stage.
There was plenty of dancing and movement, and not just because Prince Harry of Hampstead (to distinguish between any other, ahem, Prince Harrys) is played by triple threat extraordinaire Charlie Stemp, though it seemed evident to me that they can take the man out of Half A Sixpence but taking Half A Sixpence out of the man is not easily done. ‘The Palladium Pantoloons’, Ben Brason, Richard Cadle, Zac Middleton and Chris Rait, ably performed a split-second timed gymnastics sequence, rapidly paced from the start. The King (Vincent Simone) and Queen (Flavia Cacace) took to the floor (so to speak) in both acts, an upbeat dance in the first half and a melancholier – which fits the narrative at that point – but nonetheless intense dance in the second half.
French’s ‘evil laugh’ was a refreshing departure from the usual deep-throated menacing semi-roar beloved of the panto genre, and served as periodic reminders, long before narrative loose ends are resolved, that the antagonist will come good in the end. It’s also worth mentioning the title character, Snow White (Danielle Hope), has her seven dwarves – in the order given in the show’s programme, Cranky (Josh Bennett), Sniffy (Simeon Dyer), Cheery (Craig Garner), Prof (Ben Goffe), Snoozy (Jamie John), Nervy (Blake Lisle) and Silly (Andrew Martin). All are sublime. Nigel Havers, meanwhile, plays a character known only as The Understudy and officially has, as Dragonella points out, “six words, two lines, that’s it”. But really, the production is kinder to Havers than that.
It’s a very slick show overall, with beautiful sets, and costumes on which no expense appears to have been spared. Full marks, then, to this gloriously vibrant and spirited production.
Review by Chris Omaweng
Dawn French stars alongside returning London Palladium pantomime royalty Julian Clary, Paul Zerdin, Nigel Havers and Gary Wilmot joined by Strictly Come Dancing’s Vincent & Flavia in Snow White, London’s must-see panto. Plus West End and Broadway star Charlie Stemp returns, alongside Over The Rainbow’s Danielle Hope.
From the same team behind last year’s Olivier Award-winning pantomime, Snow White will feature all the sparkle, scale and spectacle London has come to expect from the West End’s most lavish festive production in a show packed full of laughter, music, special effects and theatrical magic.
Let the magic begin and secure your seats now for Snow White at the London Palladium, the fairest pantomime of them all.
London Palladium, Argyll St, London W1F 7TF
8 December 2018 – 13 January 2019