Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Waterside Theatre, Aylesbury ★★★½

Reviewed for The Reviews Hub:

It is a recurring thread in many modern pantomimes that the titular heroines, from Sleeping Beauty to Cinderella, are among the least served in terms of scripted character. That’s certainly the case with Aylesbury’s version of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, where the characters of Muddles, Dolly the Nurse and the Wicked Queen transcend all others.

That is in itself no bad thing: local radio personality Andy Collins is a veteran of Aylesbury pantomime, having played the fool rôle for several years and with great aplomb. Reuniting with him is drag artist and singer La Voix, returning after last year’s triumphant performance as Widow Twankey in Aladdin to once again play the dame.

Having a dame who can not only sing, but sing well, adds a sheen that many commercial pantomimes miss out on. From her opening number (the theme from Fame, reworded to an emphatic ‘Dame!’), La Voix stamps her mark on the show, and her double act with Collins is easy and assured, radiating warmth that the audience cannot fail to absorb.

As the Wicked Queen, Su Pollard throws herself into the villainous role. While Andrew Ryan’s script is not the sharpest, Pollard’s commitment to song and dance – especially in her transformation sequence – helps elevate the role. Even when forced into a series of outlandish costumes in her quest to woo Jon Moses’ charming Prince, Pollard keeps up the character work. It is a shame, then, that her ultimate comeuppance is relatively low key, which does an injustice to character and actor alike.

Amid all these larger-than-life performances, Snow White herself becomes a bit player in her own story, but recent graduate Jenna Innes delivers the goods in her first pantomime role. Innes demonstrates a powerful voice that deserves to be heard more widely. Despite being saddled with a backstory as a scullery maid – an irrelevant plot detail that belongs more in Cinderella than Snow White, and which gets forgotten after the show’s initial scenes – Innes nonetheless convinces as the princess for whom everybody risks the queen’s wrath.

Despite many questions about the play’s script, the key points of a traditional panto are present, from the “ghosties and ghoulies” skit to the raucous reworking of The Twelve Days of Christmas – which, after several years, has escalated into a literal battle between Collins and his audience, such that some canny members of the audience had umbrellas on standby ready for when the super-soaker water pistol fight commenced.

And that is the key to Aylesbury pantos: solidly reliable fun that entertains and amuses. Other years’ efforts may have been stronger in some areas, but the commitment to the genre remains constant.

Continues until 31 December.

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