Melissa Blease reviews this year’s pantomime at Theatre Royal Bath – Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, on until Sunday 7 January
Even if you’ve yet to buy a single gift, discuss the pros and cons of roast turkey or work out exactly how many days the office will be closed for at the end of December, it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas… Not least of all in and around the Theatre Royal Bath, where a handsome prince, a wicked stepmother, a beautiful young lady, seven hardworking little men and a fella in a gaudy frock have taken up residence for the season.
Yo-ho-ho, Heigh-Ho Heigh-Ho and a barrel of very good bad jokes: the panto is upon us! And if such a notion fails to float your festive boat, I hereby wave my magic wand and out you as the Grinch that you are.
In keeping with Heritage City sensibilities, Christmas shows at the TRB tend to proudly fly the flag for good old fashioned, proper pantomime tradition, skilfully eschewing contemporary twists (laconic, ironic comedians, ex-soap opera stars or X-Factor wannabes in starring roles; over-egged ‘current political climate’ jokes supposedly designed to humour the parents, etc) in favour of a tried-and-trusted formula: a sagaciously silly, super-sparkly retelling of an age-old fairy tale designed to brighten up the murky deep midwinter – and the 2017 production is the brightest and best I’ve seen in Bath in years.
Harriet Thorpe as the Wicked Queen
Despite the fact that Michael Quinn is a deliciously Disney-esque Prince Frederick (get that chiselled jaw, girls!), Devon Elise-Johnson a gloriously girly Snow White and Harriet (Ab Fab) Thorpe a suitably hiss-inducing Wicked Queen, TRB panto stalwart Jon Monie steals the spotlight this year as Snow White’s best mate Muddles. His super-fast, quickfire asides and utterly charming personality aided and abetted by his long-term Christmas season cohort Nick Wilton as Muddles’ ma Dame Dolly, who once again proves that, if you’re looking for ridiculously raucous, rollickin’ good fun, there really ain’t nothing like a dame. Meanwhile, elsewhere on the perfect pantomime checklist…
Costumes? If you’re a glamour groupie, be still your beating heart! Put it this way: when the TRB hold their costume and accessories sale on Saturday 20 January, I’ll be sleeping outside overnight to make darn sure I get my hands on the Wicked Queen’s entire wardrobe because I too want to dress like the result of a very unlikely pairing between Zsa Zsa Gabor and Danny LaRue.
Music? Of course – and brought to us by a live band, guided by the capable hands of musical director Oliver Rew.
Dancing? Think, the Strictly crew meet the Swan Lake chorus at a party hosted by Steps.
Jon Monie as Muddles with the Ensemble as villagers
Sweets thrown into the audience? Cute kids invited up onto the stage to inadvertently supply the funniest lines of the non-scripted part of the script? Opportunities to sing-a-long, point out to various members of the cast that he/she/it is behind them, and lashings of oh-no-you-won’t/oh-yes-you-are audience participation retorts? Tick, tick, tickety-tickety boo – it’s all going on, in perfect proportion, without ever dropping a single beat of the perfect pantomime drum… and of course, there’s a big fat fairytale wedding finale.
And while it’s difficult to pick a favourite moment from a show that’s honestly, truly packed with hilariously witty highlights, the time spent in the company of Muddles, Dame Dolly and Smiler (one of the seven dynamic dwarves) as they present a unique interpretation of the 12 Days of Christmas has to be one of the funniest musical comedy interludes to have graced the TRB stage.
If you’re looking for the fairest pantomime in the land this season, go with this one: it’s unabashedly upbeat, brazenly buoyant and full-on festive fabulous. Is it really? Oh yes it very much is.