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South East
posted/updated: 20 Feb 2015 -
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
Directed by Debbie Brennan. Choreographed by Rebecca Lee & Kayleigh Carina. Written by Alan P Frayn. MD: Peter Bailey
society/company: Gillingham Dramatic Society (directory)
performance date: 20 Feb 2015
venue: The Brook Theatre, 5 The Brook, Chatham, Kent ME4 4SE
reviewer/s: Susan Elkin (Sardines review)

What a treat to see Chatham’s Brook Theatre full to bursting and, I gather, sold out for all six Snow White performances. And the big down stage extension with band at stage right is a good idea too because it gets round so many of the Brook’s limited playing space problems.

There is a lot of talent in GDS productions and this show certainly highlights some of it. Aaron Ramsden, for example – still in his early teens, light of foot, good at addressing the audience and with masses of well controlled stage presence - is outstanding as Chuckles. He needs a little more mentoring with joke timing but he has the potential to go far. Remember where you first saw his name.

Also very good value is Millie Longhurst as Snow White with her accomplished acting and impeccable intonation in the songs. And Nick Smith as Slurp gives us an enjoyable piece of character acting.

The four piece band led by MD Peter Bailey is a delight (especially when they play a catchy 6/8 leitmotiv for the dwarfs) and the projected scenery fits the bill well. Less successful was the decision to put the dwarfs in huge masks so that they are much larger than Snow White. No wonder all those rather laboured small, short and little jokes fall so flat. And John Endicott’s dame is very understated and bland. If a dame isn’t loveably grotesque and ridiculous then the role becomes pointless.

There are also problems with Alan P Frayn’s script which includes far too many jokes about bodily functions for my taste and lots of puns which sailed right over the heads of most audience members at the performance I saw. On the other hand there’s an appealing freshness in Frayn’s plotting. It’s fun to find out what happened to Snow White’s father, to reflect on the succession of the kingdom and to meet Merlin of the Magic Mirror (Lee Round) once the glass has cracked.

On the whole, while having plenty in it to enjoy, this show doesn’t quite manage to play to its strengths. Rachel Crane, for example, who plays the Fairy of Good Fortune is a very powerful singer so why on earth do we not hear her until the finale of Act 1? And Jeni Boyns who does well with Queen Avarice plays it entirely as a speaking role until half way through Act 2 when at last we hear how well Boyns can sing – and she certainly can. These are lost opportunities. It’s a good show but it could easily have been even better.

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