Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs

The Beck Theatre

Hayes

THE festive season without panto would be like a Christmas tree without lights. Oh yes it would.

So, if you’re still looking for a treat for the whole family, book The Beck. With a glut of current references, from hashtags, Harry Styles and chemical peels, to computer game Candy Crush and Edwina Currie, it involves everyone from tots and teens to grannies.

Linda Robson as the Wicked Queen is so familiar from TV – everyone’s favourite auntie or next door neighbour – so her first entrance is confusing for the audience, who should hiss and boo but want to cheer the popular star of Birds of a Feather.

Linda Robson in full cry as the evil queen in Snow White Pantomime at The Beck Theatre, Hayes
 

Fortunately, Loose Woman Linda relishes her role and makes us love to hate her, so that eventually when she asks for three cheers we oblige her with a barrage of boos.

I have to confess at first I was disappointed that we didn’t see her preen before a traditional talking mirror (usually a floating head) with the storybook phrase: ‘Mirror, mirror on the wall/Who is the fairest of them all?’

In this production her vanity is gauged by a new character to panto-land, The Man in the Mirror. Played by Simon Wegrzyn, he is more David Bowie/Ziggy Stardust than Michael Jackson, but I grew to enjoy his lively antics, particularly when partnered with the Dame and Muddles, so I concede defeat.

For the mums there are bare-chested men in tights dancing to the number, Holding Out for a Hero. This is sung by an excellent Lauren Stroud as Snow White, whose impressive voice shows why she has enjoyed leading roles in West End musicals and on UK tours.

Tim McArthur as the dame, Nurse Nelly – ‘single and ready to mingle’ – and Mark Pearce as Muddles provide top-notch comic capers.

The loveable dwarfs are, unusually, played by children rather than the vertically challenged troupes that used to fill theatres at Christmas. However, a fun rendering of The Twelve Days of Christmas, the audience getting a good soaking, a communal sing song, and a hearty thigh slap by the prince – part of a polished performance by Philip Bertioli – kept the traditionalist in me happy right up to the final curtain.

In fact I’m going to see it again.

Oh yes I am ....

Sleeping Beauty

The Compass Theatre

Ickenham

THESE panto professionals were so versatile that the eight-strong company played up to a dozen parts, assisted by a lively chorus of youngsters from local dance schools.

Sarah Annakin as the Bad Fairy was chillingly beautiful – think Helena Bonham Carter on acid – while Kerrie Thomason as the Good Fairy was a delightful contrast.

James Barclay as Nanny Noreen took multiple costume changes in his sparkly-shoed stride, in spite of being on stage for much of the show.

He and Simon Purdey (King/Merlin) and Chris Sheridan (Cuthbert/Chester the Jester) hit the correct note with adults and children by pitching the jokes at the right level for both. Not easy.

Millie-Rose Keutenius was a perfect Sleeping Beauty, ably assisted by Thomas Kemp as her prince, although his awakening kiss was a peck on the cheek. How disappointing: in my day it was always a lipsmacker.

Maybe in the current climate the prince would need to ask permission first – or be sued.

There were some great surprises. I loved the use of animation and back-projection for scenery and particularly for a dragon fight.

Most popular with the audience, and very amusing, was the footage shot in Ickenham and Ruislip.

I knew this was an enjoyable evening when I found myself on my feet doing a penguin dance. Along with the rest of the audience – obviously.