Director: Paul Hendy
Writer: Paul Hendy
Reviewer: Dan English
It’s another extraordinary pantomime production at Canterbury’s Marlowe Theatre this year as Eastenders’ Rita Simons stars in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.
Simons stars as Snow White’s evil stepmother, desperate to stop her from marrying Prince Charming. It’s a story that is familiar to everyone in the audience, but the Marlowe’s production brings the story to life in an inventive way, furthering their annual festive pantomime offering’s reputation even more. Despite it being her first pantomime, Simons is a natural to entrancing an audience in the manner necessary for this performance, creating a wonderfully sinister Queen Ivannah. She also is impressive with her rendition of Sweet Child O’ Mine, supported superbly by Musical Director Chris Wong’s band, just one well-known song choice well incorporated into this performance.
Children’s TV star Phil Gallagher, aka ‘Mister Maker’, is Muddles, Snow White’s loveable best friend. Gallagher brings excitement to his rôle that encapsulates the joyful atmosphere of this pantomime perfectly. Gallagher displays his talents at both verbal and physical comedy throughout and the testament to his ability is that despite his children’s television background, he gets everybody laughing.
Returning to the Marlowe pantomime for a seventh time, Ben Roddy is Nurse Nellie, the hilarious pantomime dame. Roddy brings to life the humour that runs through Paul Hendy’s script and like Gallagher, Roddy’s delivery delights both the youngest and the oldest members of the audience. It is clear why Roddy is asked back time and time again to star in the Marlowe’s pantomime, as each year he reinvents the Dame character, combining just the right level of silly with bawdy to bring the house down with laughter on more than one occasion.
Lloyd Hollett is another Marlowe pantomime returnee, staring in his fifth show, as Herman the Henchman. Hollett feels underused in this production, which is a shame, but his phenomenal homage to Queen near the end makes up for it. Combined with Roddy and Gallagher, the trio drive the humour forwards throughout, including an excellent fish-based cart skit and with enjoyable interactions with the audience too.
Ben Carruthers and Katie Monks are Prince Charming and Snow White respectively. Their sweet blossoming relationship drive the plot forward, a plot which ultimately comes second to the humour of the performance. That said, Carruthers and monks are charming in their performances. They are boosted by the Seven Dwarfs (George Appleby, Krysten Coombs, Kain Francis, Craig Garner, Blake Lisle, Andrew Martin and Brian Wheeler) who are a delight. Despite the difficult copyright issues surrounding their characters, the seven overcome this to create their own seven dwarf group and they are not a disappointment.
The show is also boosted by its huge ensemble cast, including some impressively talented local young theatre performers, as well as a triumphant group of dancers, all choreographed by Jono Kitchens (including a breath-taking roller skating display).
The pantomime is also a show that is aesthetically pleasing. There is a slick combination of film and performance, with some surprisingly funny cameos, with a well-crafted 3D section also included, which does work well which is often not the case in these situations. What makes this production stand out, other than the performances, are the incredible set and costume designs by Helga Wood. The whole production is wonderfully lavish, but the dwarfs’ mine is jaw-droppingly good and adds to the stunning nature of this show.
This is a pantomime that has it all. From a beautiful set to phenomenal choreography, with some excellent contemporary music choices in between, it is a slick performance with performers who make it look effortless. It is an innovating production that cannot be faulted and is another festive triumph for the Marlowe Theatre.
Runs until 10 January 2016| Image:Paul Clapp