"Panto at its very best"
by Ed Barrett for remotegoat on 29/11/18

Some reviews are tough to write, whether because you know someone involved in a show that didn’t exactly fly; or the audience loved it but you didn’t; or even because it’s left you so bemused you simply don’t know what to say. The Snow Queen is tough to review despite being truly and unequivocally of the very highest quality, as I can’t give you may details about the show itself, as I don’t want to spoil any of the surprises.

I also have a confession: there are parts I missed completely, not because of the after-effects of the interval drinks (bright greenish-yellow slushies – what was IN those things?!?), but because I was watching the expressions on my five-year-old daughter’s face as they flickered from wide-eyed amazement, to near hysterical hilarity, to pure unalloyed joy, and back again.

Writing team Sarah A Nixon and Mark Chatterton (the latter of whom also directs – wonderfully) never cease to amaze and amuse with their wit and invention, which show no sign of flagging even after two decades of bringing these Christmas stories to such vivid life. It’s a wonder the production team can realise these wild – and wildly funny – visions; but here, as always, they do, wonderfully.

Adam Keast and Francis Tucker are not only in fine form as 'master of mischeif' Toni Cornetto and dame Beau Peep Po respectively; they’re perhaps in the finest form of their lives. Their first iteration had me wondering if perhaps they’d beaked a bit too earl- - I mean, peaked a bit too early; a fear soon and repeatedly allayed as they took their characters - and the circumstances in which they found themselves - to ever-greater heights of both the sublime and the ridiculous. The Panto Gods were certainly smiling on this whole production, but on these two especially, for whom every fluffed line, every misplaced prop, every audience interaction became a perfect opportunity for their virtuosity to shine.

If early signs suggested the stage might always seem poorer whenever this pair were absent, it has to be said the rest of the cast also brought their A-games, with Lucy Thatcher as the villain Viletta taking full advantage of the audience’s reactions to show her own very formidable Panto chops, whilst Danny Burns relished every moment in multiple roles that had me wondering if he was channelling the spirit of Mike Myers, with Barbara Hockaday providing the latter with a fine foil, also in multiple guises.

Lloyd Gorman as Vieltta’s sidekick Hench and Nicola Matinus-Smith as fairy Snowdrop bring high stakes and a fine sense of the irreverent, whilst also making us care about their fates, as can also be said for Jamie Noar as principal boy Malakai and Nikita Johal as principal girl Laputa.

As for the costumes and set – Dinah England has once again outdone herself, with delightfully ingenious and utterly hilarious designs that would by themselves steal the show, if this were any normal panto.

Meanwhile, Musical Director Greg Last weaves his magic, with the songs every bit as rousing as we’ve come to expect – full-on rock for the most part, with best wordplay of the evening going to a particular Queen number that’ll bring the grin back to your face every time you think of it. If there have been operatic arias in previous Everyman pantos, they’re somehow lost to my memory; if so, this can only be a sign of my age rather than a lack of quality, with a pinch of Puccini here (for example) proving every bit as precious as the magic stone at the centre of the plot. As a Devo fan, there was one track I would’ve liked a bit more of, rather than just the intro – but then, the adage is ‘Always leave them wanting more’.

And this panto does indeed leave you wanting more – though certainly not because there’s anything missing. Rather, you find yourself wishing 2019 might be – well, just a little bit shorter, so you can book tickets to see the Everyman’s next simply magical Rock ’n’ Roll Panto.

Perhaps in the meantime we’ll just have to go and see The Snow Queen again . . .

If you’ve seen an Everyman Rock n’ Roll panto, you’ll already know what to expect, at least in terms of quality, though there are still plenty of surprises.

If you haven’t, you’re in for a treat you won't forget.

As for my daughter’s review:

‘Best – show – EVER!’

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