Friday, 18 December 2020

REVIEW: Snow White in the Seven Months of Lockdown at the King's Head Theatre (Online)

Last year the talented and innovative Creative team at Charles Court Opera presented the fabulous Five-star Nativity Panto (one of the highlights of last season pantomime offerings) at their traditional Kings Head Theatre venue, the intimate space behind the bar at the famous London Pub theatre in Islington. This year in Tier 3 and in any case in a venue almost impossible to socially distance in, they present their 14th annual Christmas show online. As in previous years it shows all the creativity of past shows and the fine singers with a strong Opera background have a great deal of fun reworking well known tunes with new lyrics by David Eaton. They offer two versions Adult and Children’s, and I watched the Adult one!

Director and writer John Savournin fully embrace the medium and the year we have had with a show packed with witty jokes about Covid and Lockdown and adds “interactive” moments in which we vote for actions by the cast. It’s a nice innovation although it does not always work and in some ways slows the pace of the show as the screen semi freezes. It is no substitute for a shout out from a loud audience but a bold attempt in the circumstances. Indeed, the production values are quite high with a colourful set in the Riverside Studio, bright good-looking costumes, and effective lighting so that the various locations, the cottage exterior and interior, Queen’s Mirror and the woods are artily created and set the scene for the five regular main performers.

John Savournin plays Snow White (looking every bit the part in the Disney costume) but retaining his baritone voice and playing the role neither as a Panto Dame nor as a drag queen but simply himself in a dress with a faint hint of John Cleese in his expressions. If anything, he looks a little too pleased with the effect. Emily Cairns and Meriel Cunningham are Prince Larry and his valet Harry sounding like Bertie Wooster and Jeeves and both wearing drawn on moustaches. Matthew Kellet returns as all seven dwarfs which for copyright are named Wharf. Crabby, Gleeful, Drowsy, Sleazy, Self-Conscious, and Half-Baked and for practical reasons we meet one at a time! The fifth member of the cast is Jennie Jones as the Wicked Queen who fits the role perfectly with her strong voice and evil laugh. They show every year that this is a team who can sing, and this is their moment of light relief and fun away from their traditional operas.

The best part of the show is the music and the cleverly rewritten lyrics. I really enjoyed the uncredited “Candle in the wind” parody (spoiler alert) over the coffin of Half-Baked and the mash up in the Forest of “One Day more”, “Don’t look back in anger”, “Go West” and “Let it be”. If anything, I would have liked more of the songs and less of the weaker jokes in the script. The adult humour was not overdone with the best line coming if you select the dirty jokes option and the weaker jokes like Cinderella is not good at tennis because she runs away from the balls falling flat without an interactive groan from a live audience. There is also a nice twist when Snow White kisses the sleeping Prince though a plastic sheet and anti bac spray in a Covid safe and politically correct way!

Like their previous Christmas offerings this is freshly different to other shows on offer, plays to their collective undoubted singing talents and brings a little bit of festive cheer into our homes. And for those feeling lonely in isolation, their message is “everyone deserves to have friends especially after the year we have had”. It’s well worth watching as its is fun, well produced and brings a smile to your face behind the mask.

Review by Nick Wayne 

Rating: ★★★
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