Photo: Craig Sugden.
All the stops have been well and truly pulled out at Bromley’s Churchill Theatre this week as Qdos officially opens the venue’s big panto production, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. The verdict from Mini Sardines after his first pantomime outing of the 2017 season is... a resounding success! With a show programme crammed with games and fun, a foyer photo booth and an auditorium of screaming school kids, what’s not to love?
Performing good panto is a lot harder than people might think, and ex-Albert Square favourite, Jessie Wallace, gives her credentials a massive boost as she revels in the role of the panto baddie. And what a baddie she makes - this girl can really perform. Two weeks ago Wallace was being prematurely killed off every night in Ira Levin’s Deathtrap, but seeing the audience eating out of her hand at last night’s panto press night (in only her third panto production) arguably suggests some relief for the actor. She really gets panto too, and she’s very funny... oh, and she can sing too!
Alongside Walford’s Kat Slater (there’s no shortage of Albert Square gags) are magician Pete Firman as Muddles and Jason Sutton as Nurse Nancy the dame. Both work well together despite Firman currently making his panto debut; his years on the circuit as a comedy magician are paying off with the audience loving a couple of lovely set pieces. When you can work with an audience as naturally as these two actors then you’re more than halfway there.
Recent graduate, Naomi Cowe, makes a likable Snow White and West End heavyweight, Oliver Tompsett excels as prince Benedict (of Bromley) – Qdos have pulled off quite a feat landing such an experienced performer as their handsome hero. The hilarious breakneck scene between Firman, Sutton and Tompsett featuring a myriad of song snippets is inspired and a real joy to watch.
Lastly, a word for our seven dwarfs. Unashamedly spawned from Lord Farquaad’s ingenious costume design in Shrek the Musical, it’s interesting to see the seven little people played by fully grown men. I have to say it makes a change to have seven dwarfs who can act and sing so well – it’s not always the case. Under Gary Lloyd’s smart direction and choreography they were a big hit.
The only part which I personally struggle with is the apparent need to utilise the big hits of the year in virtually every musical number. I’m afraid I got somewhat left behind here and instead found myself yearning for a few classics form yesteryear. The kids definitely appreciate the songs more than me. However, there’s plenty going elsewhere not to dwell on such a trivial point.
As pantomimes go, it won’t get a lot better than this year’s offering in Bromley.
Photo: Craig Sugden.