Pantomime has always been a local event with families supporting their local venue each year with familiar actors returning and playing different characters “this year”. The Pandemic has temporarily changed this relationship with audiences, and it is fascinating to see how producers brave enough to put their shows online in streamed shows have adapted to the new environment. It also means it is more competitive and audiences at home can select from a range of shows and compare them without travelling. Anton Benson is an experienced producer and following his Christmas production of Once upon a Pantomime with a host of star names crammed into the show, he has returned at Easter with a simpler live stream of Snow White captured on the stage and largely directed as if the audience is present in the auditorium. The result at times with inconsistent sound and poorly illuminated areas of the stage feels a bit like watching a technical rehearsal where the hard-working cast miss the ability to feed off the audience reaction. The added audience applause and cheers sound effect simply emphasise what is missing.
Basil Brush as the Henchman is the standout star of the show, benefiting from close-ups not possible in a live show which sometimes leave the large box from which he appears out of shot. His amiable personality and silly puns were developed on TV and easily translate into the streamed medium in a way not possible when he is wheeled on and off in a live show. The tongue twister recipe sketch is neatly and effectively done.
The other revelation is the Strictly Come Dancing star, Joanne Clifton as the Wicked Queen. She is not given much time to show off her dance skills but revels in the evil character and impresses in her powerful rendition of the Eurovision song “Rise Like a Phoenix”.
Ryan Greaves plays Wally, the knockabout comic as well as writing the show with Anton Benson and directing it too. It always feels too much to do all three key roles and without the audience response, some of it falls flat. There is a good old fashioned music hall-style routine where the Dame (played by Richard Aucott) sings “The Candyman” only to be interrupted by Wally as Willie Wonka characters. However, the Chocolate trolley routine where a story is spelt out using cardboard chocolate bars misses the audience groans at the puns and the “Twelve days of Pantomime” is simply a chaotic mess. His best gag is about moving to Motown where it is colder, “Three degrees, 4 Tops”.
There is another neat idea with Trixie Pixie (Kate Salmon) and mixed potions which is lifted from Midsummer Night’s Dream so that Snow White thinks Charming (Jai McDowall) is ugly and falls in love with Wally and she also delivers a good “Dance with me Tonight”.
The seven dwarfs are played by dancers in large masks and although we get the classic line “we are one short “followed by “we are all short”, they are in fact all taller than Snow White (played by Georgie Jackson).
This team know what makes a good pantomime and have included many of the elements in the show but are still adjusting to the streamed medium, need to find a substitute for the adrenalin rush of a live audience and to tighten up the pace and script to compete with some of the other streamed shows. In the absence of open venues, they still deserve full credit for trying.
Review by Nick Wayne
Seat: Online | Price of Ticket: £15