Writer: Iain Lauchlan
Director: David Janson
Reviewer: John Roberts
Steve and Sarah Boden of Imagine Theatre state in the show’s programme that they have a team of creatives and musicians who “understand what audiences want from their pantomimes and are able to provide some of the slickest, funniest and most spectacular shows you will see anywhere in the UK” – Well, if the audiences in Southport want no live band, a set that looks like its been dragged out from the cupboards of the local church, a one-dimensional dame, and a set of dwarfs who tower over the blink-and-you-miss-her lead role, then Steve and Sarah Boden are spot on.
A quality pantomime should have topical gags, it should tease the innuendo and should provide plenty of audience participation – while this production certainly gives plenty of the later it certainly forgot the former. Iain Lachlan’s script has seen better days and, apart from one mushroom-based gag never really hits home with the adult audience, most of the laughter comes from the hardworking Alistair Barron as court jester Jingles.
Harriet Payne makes for a pleasant enough Snow White, but her part is massively underwritten and gives her very little to shine. Home &Away‘s Lynne McGranger plays a deliciously devilish Wicked Queen and finds the right level of balance of evil to get the boos coming but without bringing the younger audience members to tears. Welsh performer Jason Marc-Williams has dame duties in Southport but he never really finds his stride and gives the audience a monotonous performance that feels far too self-indulgent to really bring the audience on side.
But what about Snow White’s favourite sidekicks, the Seven Dwarfs? Sadly another big disappointment – using teenage performers where half of them are taller than Snow White in skin costumes that leave them nothing more to do than mime to pre-recorded vocal tracks is, in all fairness, a disgrace. There are better alternatives and one would be to use many of the local talented children minus the oversized costumes to really shine.
One would like to give credit to the lighting designer but it seems their credit is missing in the programme along with the names of the band… oh, hold on a minute, there isn’t a live band, the cast is made to sing over click tracks – fine if you are a small pantomime company just starting out, but when you are selling a show in an 1800-seat theatre with tickets costing upwards of £14 there really isn’t an excuse.
In all the negativity, though, it is nice to see a rare slop scene and, while it comes into play rather early in proceedings, does provide the most fun in the whole show. The reception to Justin Fletcher’s (Mr Tumble) magic mirror certainly boosted the younger members attention and with a running time of two hours, including the interval, it is certainly family friendly. However, If you are going to make such bold claims about the quality of your productions then you have to make sure the product ticks all the boxes, Snow White in Southport sadly doesn’t come close.
Runs until 31 December 2016 | Image: Imagine Theatre