LAST night’s performance of Snow White at Chequer Mead was a real one-off, coming as it did after a blazing performance of “cinders” at the Wallis Centre next door which had been gutted by fire two hours earlier.
But if the evacuated cast had been shivering in the car park all afternoon, and the audience had trudged through heavy rain after parking lord-knows-where as the road was still blocked off, it was apparent that with disaster safely averted, Snow White was going to bow out in style in front of a completely full house.
And it was a credit to the improvisational skills of Muddles, the court jester played by Drew Cameron, that the dramas of the afternoon were so seamlessly incorporated into the script.
Drew arrived with a water blaster, shouting “fire” and having sprayed his already wet audience, was off and running with gags, impersonations and the sort of ritual humiliation of hapless audience members that is such a feature of panto.
There were one or two dads – notably Paul who had come all the way from Australia for his ordeal – who probably wished they had sat further back, or joined in more enthusiastically first time round, but the good-hearted fun was enjoyed by everyone else.
Martin Dickinson was a very credible handsome Prince, and with a voice more used to filling West End theatres was a thrilling addition to the panto cast – and brought real poignancy to the moment when he saved Snow White with a kiss.
Mollie Tucker was a feisty Snow White with a big voice, which was used to great effect in ballads which included the Oscar-winning Let It Go, and she exuded an appealing warmth towards her cast of dwarfs which made her untimely demise particularly touching.
As the Wicked Queen, Katherine Mansi played for laughs rather than horror. There is no more terrifyingly villainess than Disney’s ice-hearted Queen, but if Mansi’s portrayal was more Essex Girl than Evil Royal, the laughing audience seemed happy to hiss her off stage at every opportunity.
And a cameo appearance by acrobat Renato Pires was also enjoyable – but too brief.
As always of course a panto is a real ensemble piece, and it is to the immense credit of the younger cast members that after spending two hours waiting in the Parish Halls car park, they were able to throw themselves back into their final performance with such professionalism and enthusiasm.
It was apparent that the seven dwarfs – hampered as they were by full costumes and heads – were acting their little stripey socks off underneath, and their appearance earned a well deserved “aah” from the audience.
The company of senior dancers from the Roshe school was also excellent and with their junior counterparts – the Jade team yesterday – provided a magical climax to the show.
If I did have a criticism it would be that the song choices – while beautifully performed – often seemed a little arbitrary and did little to further the plot, and there were one or two longeurs when the pared-down cast performed a series of two-handers on an oddly-empty stage.
But on a night when everything off stage, as well as on, had indeed ended “happily ever after” the audience left after an enjoyable evening – and very grateful to the fire crews who had helped the magic to happen.
Reviewer : Geraldine Durrant