‘Snow White’ review

Theatre, Panto
4 out of 5 stars
Snow White, Chickenshed, 2019
Photograph: Steve Gregson

Time Out says

4 out of 5 stars

Community theatre legends Chickenshed turn in a charming ‘Snow White’ with a cast of hundreds

If this December's altogether un-magical real-world goings-on have made it trickier than normal to muster up the usual level of festive cheer, then Chickenshed's production of ‘Snow White’ is about as successful a quick-fix remedy as you're likely to find. The north London-based company champions inclusivity and diversity, and it's with this big-hearted spirit in mind that their 800(!)-strong cast (split into four rotating companies) has set about reworking the age-old tale of a girl who just loved apples a bit too much.

Partly written by the cast members themselves, this ‘Snow White’ is more of a family-friendly musical than a panto per se: there's no audience participation or audacious dame – although Ashley Driver's turn as the evil stepmother's mirror reflection is cheeky and scene-stealing enough to fill the gap. But if you're looking for pure, wholesome Christmas good vibes, then you'll get a thousand times more from the company's all-ages-and-abilities chorus than you would watching an ex-member of ‘Hollyoaks’ thigh-slapping on a fancier stage.

‘Snow White’ isn't just an exercise in compassion, however. Enlisting William Fricker (‘War Horse’s original associate designer) to create a visually arresting, multimedia world – it‘s set in the Swinging Sixties – for the show to live in, it's a high-reaching, professional bar that the company set for themselves. Cara McInanny's Snow White is sweet and likeable, with a cracking voice, while Sarah Connolly plays stepmother Jane de Villiers with just the right amount of comedy to make her a baddy, but a secretly likeable one nonetheless. Special mention should also go Alexandre Murtinheira, whose Inspector Clouseau-esque French ‘dwarf’ Soil deserves his own spin-off.

If there's a criticism to be made it's that, having rejigged the story, renamed the characters and changed the setting of the original, sometimes you're left trying to keep up (one scene is – I think – underwater? Maybe?!). But in terms of embodying the real spirit of Christmas, of good will to all your fellow humans and spreading a bit of joy, there's few better ways to spend an evening.

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