Sunday, 26 December 2021

REVIEW: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs at the Bristol Hippodrome

As the Welsh Government heartbreakingly and seemingly prematurely shut Welsh Theatres after Christmas due to the perceived risk of the Omicron variant of Delta, less than 30 minutes drive away I was able to join a packed house at the lovely Bristol Hippodrome for a wonderful fun Snow White. Having been required to show my triple jabbed Covid Pass to enter and wearing a mask it was otherwise like the good old days of families enjoying a Christmas Treat. Why can’t they publish the evidence of how many people in the last month have caught Covid after a booster jab and wearing a mask at a Theatre and ended up feeling ill enough for hospital admission? It is time to stop playing politics and start giving us the data in enough detail so we can make up our own minds.

Those who decide that going to the Theatre is safer than going to the shops for your Christmas shopping are in for a treat with this excellent version of Snow White with beautiful costumes, stellar performances, and plenty of laughs together as a family. It is broadly the same script as the Swansea Grand Theatre, but Andy Ford, Lesley Joseph and Judge Rob Rinder give a master class in the execution of tried and tested routines from start to finish, and the audience roared their approval.

The Seven Dwarfs are again played by men on their knees and open the show in a strong clear scene setter but really burst into life when they return riding a lovely selection of woodland animals. This frees them up to move more easily and brings more humour and movement to the scene and when joined by Andy Ford riding an invisible Giraffe makes for a madcap amusing meeting with Snow White. 

Ford is Muddles (this year) and returns to Bristol after a few years at Plymouth Pantomime and looks like he is very pleased to return to perform in front of an admiring audience revelling in his West Country accent and daft humour. He plays the audience delightfully with his cutesy poses and silly grimaces that project his character right to the back of the stalls. After a surprisingly breathless lip-sync introduction of welcome, he runs through familiar routines such as Mastermind and the Dance off with the Man in the Mirror but also perfectly delivers one of my favourites with Lesley Joseph of Mr Who, Mr What and Mr I Don’t Know with great comic timing and well-judged pauses to let the lines sink in. 

Lesley Joseph is superb as Dragonella, an excellent comic actress who delights in sending herself up from her first step on the stage between two huge Ensemble dancers she establishes a stage presence much larger than her diminutive stature! She is evil with a twinkle and a charm that means that although we boo, we still love her! Throughout the show Ford address her as Lesley which has become one of the running gags she takes from pantomime to pantomime and reminds us constantly that she is a clever comedy actress rather than an evil Queen.

The real surprise and joy of the show alongside these two stalwarts of Pantomime is Judge Rob Rinder who shows that Barristers know how to perform and use an audience and has a wonderfully rewritten script as the Man in Mirror. Thankfully he is only a projected image in a magical mirror from the pit at the stage in his first scene and is soon freed to strut the stage and pose using what he learned on Strictly while delivering well lines about “the rulings of this court” and “guilty or not guilty”. He also gets to join in the dance routines and sing “One way or another” to show he is a future Pantomime headliner to look out for.

The rip-roaring first Act 1 does lose its way a bit in the second Act where we open at a party the Prince is throwing instead of searching the woods for Snow White followed by a lip-sync routine about dating with Muddles and the Judge and then a superfluous 12 days of Christmas. They are funny routines that the audience love but why shoehorn them in to disrupt the narrative flow?

Pantomime should keep the balance between storytelling and the music and comedy which should flow from the narrative. They also add an interesting twist to the ending which would be a spoiler to reveal but is another example of how Pantomime needs to evolve to modern sensibilities.

This is also a show that is wonderfully costumed and lit borrowing from the earlier production of the show at the Palladium both the Ice-Skating scene and Finale costumes are stunning and the choreography by the excellent Ashley Nottingham is marvellous. Andrew Ryan, himself a great Dame, directs the whole show keeping the pace even and using the stage well.

This show runs until 2nd January so assuming the UK government don’t act prematurely like the Scottish and Welsh Governments to hit Theatre at this crucial time then there is still time to catch this entertaining fun show. I hope the Welsh Government are funding the return of each booked ticket for Pantomime cancelled by their actions so those in South Wales can nip down the M4 to see this show using their refunds and get the joyous Pantomime experience this Christmas.

Review by Nick Wayne 

Rating: ★★★★

Seat: Stalls, Row R | Price of Ticket: £45
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