Written By: Mark Armstrong
Date: December 13 2018
Location: Epstein Theatre, Liverpool
The annual Christmas panto at the Epstein is as much a part of the festive season as mince pies, frantic last-minute shopping and wacky work nights out. The Epstein is a great venue anyway, but especially for a panto; it’s ideal for the younger audience, and as good a platform as any for a show like this.
As usual, the story begins with Fairy Goodheart (Claire Simmo) telling us about Snow White and her wicked stepmother, who happens to be a witch. Enter Magic Muddles (Lewis Pryor), who tries to convince the kids that his magic is world-class in amusing fashion, but who does get a “Magic Muddles” shout whenever he appears on stage thereafter. He and his mum Dame Debbie (Michael Chapman), who works as a cook at the witch’s palace, keep the humour going, with silly songs and some naughty innuendo (from Chapman, of course) for the adults.
Snow White (Mia Molloy) is our believable and likable hero, but she is very naive, especially when dealing with the Witch (Kim Woodburn), who is adamant that she is the fairest in the land, though her man in the mirror (Derek Acorah, not Michael Jackson) disagrees, much to her chagrin. In the meantime, a dashing Prince (Alex Patmore) arrives to find true love and marry Snow White (these lads are pretty forward when it comes to their intentions). This angers the Witch, who via her Henchman (Daryl Holden) wishes to have Snow White killed.
By chance, Snow White meets the Prince, and the two strike up an immediate attraction. Upon returning to the Palace, though, she is tricked by the Witch into joining the Henchman in the forest. Dame Debbie is with them too, having been previously arrested (though she doesn’t mind being in handcuffs). Debbie is released only to help the Henchman kill Snow White, but refuses and spills the entire beans of the whole first act in a funny moment. The Henchman also can’t bring himself to do it, so he tells Snow White to hide in the cottage belonging to the Seven Dwarfs, while assuring the Witch that Snow White is indeed dead.
White (I can’t keep writing her full name) is delighted to meet the Dwarfs, who appear in the form of life-sized, and oversized, costumes that are true to the classic Disney film. That being said, their names and accents have a humorously Scouse vibe to them, from Snotty and Woolly Back to Crocky and Soft Lad. The fact that one of them offers trainees from an Asda carrier bag says it all, in one of the funniest scenes of the evening. Meanwhile, the Witch learns that Snow White is in fact still alive, and plans her next move.
She locates the Dwarfs’ house and, with the seven lads out working, she crudely disguises herself in a black hood and plays a frail old woman to convince Snow to let her in and eat a poisonous apple (Jamie Oliver would have a job on his hands convincing fairytale characters to eat five fruit and veg a day; then again, given how gullible they are, maybe he wouldn’t). Of course, White eats it and collapses, to the evil cackle of the Witch. The Dwarfs are devastated, but realise that “love’s kiss” will revive her. Of course, it comes from the Prince, though it’s Muddles who beats Henchman in a sword fight to win the day, and with him and the Witch taken away, we have our happy ending in the form of a grand wedding, as well as Dame Debbie inviting some kids on stage to sing Baby Shark and win some Xmas chocolates (which due to the ad-libbing and the cheekiness of the young ‘uns, was one of the night’s most comical moments).
There are excellent settings as always, and the costumes are spectacular; you can tell that a great amount of work has gone into the wardrobe and design for this production. Mia Molloy was a very good singer, while Kim was an excellent wicked stepmother. Muddles and Debbie provided their usual round of comedy (I expected to see more of Debbie, to be fair), and it’s always a treat to see the performers break character by simply laughing at blown lines or the sheer ridiculousness of some moments, even at crucial plot-points.
Overall, I have probably enjoyed previous Epstein pantos a little more, but this was still a lot of fun, and a show well worth taking the kids to see over Christmas.
Overall Rating: 8.5/10 – Excellent