Snow White & The Seven Dwarfs
Milton Keynes Theatre
13th December 2022
It’s that time of year again (oh yes it is!) when theatres across the country embrace that silliest and most uniquely British tradition of pantomime, in an attempt to bring some festive cheer to audiences during the dark evenings and cold weather. Milton Keynes Theatre is well-known for its high quality seasonal shows, bringing high production values and quality casts, and is hoping to continue this trend with this year’s pantomime, ‘Snow White & The Seven Dwarfs’.
The classic story sees evil Queen Dragonella (Lesley Joseph) furious when her trusted Man In The Mirror (Rob Rinder) informs her that Snow White (Charlotte Haines) has replaced the queen as the fairest in all the land. Driven mad by jealousy, Queen Dragonella plots to have Snow White killed, forcing her jester Muddles (Aaron James) and henchman Oddjob (Paul Chuckle) to carry out the evil deed. But, with these men being bumbling fools in the middle of pantomime, things take a delightfully wacky turn through Christmas songs, silly sketches, deliberately bad jokes and sleighfuls of heckling and participation from the audience.
Milton Keynes Theatre’s panto reputation remains safe for another year, as director Ian Talbot has delivered a production that not only looks fantastic, but is a great deal of fun as well. All of the staple panto scenes and traditions are on display, performed with a hugely warm sense of self-awareness and with its tongue planted firmly in its cheek. Written by Alan McHugh (and with additional material by Aaron James), it’s a strong and funny script, with the jokes and double entendres coming thick and fast while also ensuring there’s plenty in there to keep the kids entertained as well. While not all the material quite lands (a couple of sappy ballads break the show’s flow, despite being well-sung), and could be more fairly distributed (the dwarfs in particular are quite underused), it’s an enjoyably silly adventure. The production is also hugely impressive to look at, with the costumes especially opulent (designed by Mike Coltman, Teresa Nalton and James Maciver), and Ian Westbrook’s set design making sure the show remains a feast for the eyes throughout.
Having played similar roles numerous times in pantos before (and years of vamping as ‘Birds Of A Feather’s Dorien Green), Lesley Joseph fits the character of the wicked queen like a glove, and is brilliant to watch, cackling and revelling in her villainy without being too scary for little audience members. Rob Rinder does well as The Man In The Mirror, inevitably resorting to his judge persona later on in the show, but able to show off slightly better dance moves than he did on Strictly. Holding the show together, the comedy double act of Aaron James’ Muddles and Paul Chuckle’s Oddjob works really well, with the two of them bouncing off each other really well and running with the silliness. They do inevitably break character and get the giggles, as do the other principal actors, although its delivery may well feel quite pre-planned and scripted to more cynical audience members.
Panto isn’t to everyone’s tastes, but for many it’s an annual tradition, even being some people’s first introduction to live theatre. ‘Snow White & The Seven Dwarfs’ has enough spectacle, colour and fun to tick most people’s boxes, and delivers an enjoyable evening’s entertainment. Stunning to look at, and well performed, it’s another success for Milton Keynes Theatre. Grab your favourite Christmas jumper and join in the fun.
‘Snow White & The Seven Dwarfs’ runs at the Milton Keynes Theatre until Sunday 8th January 2022
Performance runtime 2 hours 30 minutes including interval
Photo credit: Barry Rivett