It's been a long, dark nearly-two years without live theatre as know it, so it's a pleasure to report that not only is Metro Theatre's classic Panto back on stage, but it is a truly hilarious success that is sure to please kids and grown-ups alike, full of great humour and engaging performances. You'll laugh, cheer, boo, and laugh again!
For the uninitiated, a Panto is not "pantomime" in the sense of a silent performance - just the opposite! This is a raucous, cheeky, audience-engaging show that works on multiple levels. There's silly jokes, puns, colourful characters and slapstick galore. For the grown-ups, there's snarky social satire, with a villainess called Jess Bezos (the "Queen of the Amazons", her evil empire mistreats her dwarf workers, while she dreams of escaping from everyone in her personal rocket). There's audience involvement, with all of us encouraged to cheer the hero, boo the villain, and shout out to warn characters when danger lurks.
And then there's the Dame.
One of a Panto's traditional features, the Dame is a larger-than-life female character played by a man in obvious drag, who mostly speaks straight to the audience and is an acerbic, sarcastic, naughty – a cynical, hilarious counter to the sweetness of the heroine.
In Snow White, this role is handled by James Walker, and he doesn't just run with it, he gallops– owning the role and fairly stealing the show. Walker is a joy to watch and for my money is the best thing in an already excellent production.
Pantos usually work in contemporary twists on traditional tales, and this one is no different - with the Queen's magic mirror changed to a life-size Siri to great comic effect. But one thing I really appreciated was the way they explicitly made a point of "consent" in connection with the woodsman and the "handsome prince" vying to kiss the sleeping Snow White. Playwright Erik Gow addresses this in, I thought, a very clever, progressive and entertaining way.
The rest of the cast of 15 including Scotia Browner as Snow White, Daniel Cardoso as the vain, self-centred Prince, and Avery Taylor as the Wicked Queen, who all do excellent work.
Only a few minor quibbles: I yearned for more vocal projection from Lucas Gregory, whose winsomely engaging Huntsman was a little hard to hear, especially during his musical number. And the show is a little long at almost 2 1/4 hours, so it might be best to bring younger ones to a matinee.
But that said, Snow White, the Panto really delivers, and whether it's your first Panto or just your latest, you'll have a blast!