AMY MACPHERSON reviews Theatre503’s pantomime mash-up.
Pantomimes as a rule are based on fairy-tales. Snow-White, Cinderella, Robin Hood and Dick Whittington are all pretty standard choices for showrunners. Pantomimes based on A Christmas Carol are less common. A pantomime that combines Snow White and A Christmas Carol is pretty much unprecedented, yet that’s exactly what Sleeping Trees achieve here. After all, they do have a reputation to uphold for panto mash-ups, following their success with Cinderella and the Beanstalk, and this is the mash-up to end all mash-ups.
Think of all the pantomime you have ever seen. Think of any fairy-tale or Disney film. The chances are high that a reference to or a character from everyone one of these films, shows and stories will feature at some point in this mad-cap production. Indeed, not only do Scrooge, Tiny Tim and Bob Cratchitt actively appear in the mix with Snow White, Sleepy, Happy, Grumpy, Dopey etc, there are also references to The Wizard of Oz and Sleeping Beauty thrown in, as well as an appearance from a somewhat depressed Mary Poppins. Never mind the Ghost of Christmas Past, this is the Ghost of Pantomime Past. Giant lobsters, dinosaurs, flirtatious mirrors and wicked witches only add to the madness, and to cap it off, all the characters are played by just three men. Three men play thirty-odd characters, apparently because of a casting error.
So how do they fare? One of the most impressive aspects of the performance is the comedy’s sheer physical energy, as well as the distinctness of each and every character. The same actor who plays Bob Cratchitt also plays a particularly… er… lovely Snow White and a very enthusiastic broomstick. Another actor switches between several dwarf parts, Mary Poppins, Scrooge, Father Christmas and a memorably flirtatious mirror, while the third actor flits between his roles as Mrs Claus, Grumpy and even a munchkin. I felt exhausted just watching them switch between garbs. This is the most unique pantomime I have ever experienced. I’ve never seen anything quite like it.
There are obvious downsides to having such a small cast. Many of the traditional pantomime stock characters had to be cut, as are some of the better loved pantomime traditions: the pantomime dames, the buttons character, the dim-witted prince and the large dance numbers. Meanwhile, some of the more annoying traditions are retained: the bellowing of ‘He’s behind you’ and the endless repetition of ‘Hello and boys and girls!’ becomes a bit exhausting after all while. Usually, I wouldn’t give this a thought as simply part and parcel of pantomime, but since so many other traditions are missing you might have hoped…
Nonetheless, a really entertaining show–the audience were in constant uproarious laughter. The company uses the performance space and special effects deftly, with especially well-crafted transportation scenes, as well as some top class clowning involving a set of bizarre props. The atmosphere inside the theatre is warm and suitably Christmassy, all guests are treated to mince pies and mulled wine in the cosy performance space. The show is a wonderful little Christmas treat, a welcome distraction from the winter gloom, and a very, very silly performance indeed.
‘Scrooge and the Seven Dwarfs’ at Theatre503 is running until 7th January 2017. For more information and tickets: https://theatre503.com/whats-on/scrooge-and-the-seven-dwarves/