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Snow White pales by comparison to last year's panto



Review by David Munro

THE pleasure of a pantomime is the enjoyment of the children. If the production is stylish and pleasurable, that is a bonus.

At Richmond last night, the pleasure of the children was massive but, for me at any rate, the production had no bonus.

I don't think that Snow White is a good subject for a pantomime, the humorous characters are grafted on to the Grimm story, willy-nilly, and there is no real opportunity given in the basic plot for the opulence and magic one associates with the Pantomime.

The writers have created a nurse and guardian for Snow White whom, together with the wicked queen, provide the comedy material. As portrayed by Peter Piper, as Muddles, the guardian, and Richard Dax, as the nurse, Gwen, they perform the comedy routines required of them without any charm or originality.

This is clearly what the children enjoyed so it is probably ungenerous of me to cavil.

I do, however, have in mind Peter Piper in the same part at Brighton last year impressing me as a comedian of exceptional talent.

He then endowed the character with charm and a certain wit, which is now sadly lacking, and reminded me of the great panto comics who spiced their performances with the zest and vigour they had acquired in the now sadly defunct Music Halls.

They had a basic humorous talent and did not have to rely on cheap imitations of other comics or TV personalities to milk the laughs.

Peter Piper only justified my memory of him once this year in a routine as a Gorilla, carrying him in a portable cage.

I will not attempt to describe the vigour or originality that he brought to this sketch, you really have to see it to appreciate how extremely funny he can be.

However, this was a flash in the pan and for the rest of the evening, he never reached the heights of comedy again, as he had done last year.

Lesley Joseph, as the Queen, was a bird of a different feather. Her performance had improved immeasurably from last year and she personified a marvellously evil Queen, who, at the same time, is uproariously funny.

She was only fazed once when one of the children screamed a spontaneous derogatory remark at her, but this was a compliment in reverse for the power and credibility she brought to the character she had created.

She was pure joy and for me at least made the whole evening worthwhile.

Snow White is a cipher and, as such, was in safe hands with Laurie Hagen who simpered and sung off key to such an extent that one felt a lot of sympathy with the Queen's dislike of her.

Paul Manvel was a suitably wooden prince for her cardboard performance and the seven dwarfs, whom one felt were there on sufferance as they appear in the title, performed professionally what little (sorry) they were called upon to do.

The choreography, such as it could be called, was credited to Tim Flavin.

I have a great admiration for Mr Flavin, whom I consider one of the greatest dancers to grace the musicals of today. How he could have perpetrated the lacklustre, unoriginal routines we saw last night, I cannot imagine.

It was amateur night at the village hall and called to mind Ralph Reader's efforts for the Gang Show.

He, at least, was dealing with amateurs not, as in this case, professionals.

Pantomime dancing is traditionally uninspired but Mr Flavin is carrying tradition a bit too far.

The direction, by Paul Wilmott, who also is credited with adaptation of the book, carried the action along with sufficient pace to hold the children's attention without forcing them to dwell too long on the traditional cut out sets - unaccredited, but clearly well preserved from one of the last war's economical pantos.

But as I have said, initially the proof of the pantomime pudding is in the eating, and the children gobbled it up with relish, and so long as they enjoyed it, forget my regret that the production, for me, fell far below the standards one has come to expect from the past and more pleasurable Richmond pantomimes - Lesley Joseph excepted of course!

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. by Keith Simmons and Paul Elliott, Adapted by Phil Willmott; Director - Phil Willmott; Choreographer - Tim Flavin; Lighting - Gerry Jenkinson; Musical Director - Joseph Morley. WITH: Lesley Joseph; Laurie Hagen; Peter Piper; Ricard Dax; Paul Manuel; Karen Anderson; Jamie Cameron; Malcolm Dixon; Denise Ann Dove; Georgian Petricia Ilie; Ion Paliu; Brian Wheeler; Mathew Beadle; Enrhys Cooper; Greg Meyer; Nikki Mullins; Andrew Rees; Kelly Louise Rowden; Jenni Stow; Francesca Wegrzyn. Producer - Nick Thomas and Jon Conway for Qdos Entertainment plc. Richmond Theatre, The Little Green , Richmond, Surrey. Dec 11, 2003 - Jan 18, 2004
Eve. 7pm Mat: 2.30pm
Box Office: 020 8940 0088

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