Review: Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds’ take on Snow White was pantomime perfection
With a Christmas Tree welcoming us at the door and not one but two dames taking to the stage, it could only be pantomime season at the Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds.
This time it is the venue’s version of Snow White - but with a motorbike-mad heroine, played by the awesome Lara Lewis, and seven scouts rather than dwarfs - this was definitely not the usual Brothers Grimm take on the tale and it was so much better for it.
Before curtains up, venue director Owen Calvert-Lyon’s speech to supporters of the site described the site’s pantomimes, with this one written by Chris Hannon, as the ‘economic engine’ of the theatre.
He added that the festive shows fund the other productions that the amazing venue does throughout the year and from what we saw on opening night, I am so happy this highly-popular production will give the theatre more chances to continue to do more amazing stuff like this.
As my seven-year-old daughter Ellie and I got to our seats the voice of the first dame of the evening, Oscar winner and one of the patrons of the theatre Dame Judi Dench, welcomed us to the show.
Dame Judi was making her panto debut, having recorded her iconic tones for the magic mirror, which added a touch of stardust to an incredibly impressive show.
The opening then saw Philippa Carson’s Gladys, who was truly brilliant throughout, setting the scene before going into the first of many enjoyable songs which got us dancing in our seats.
Owen had said in his speech that the show also had 14 young cast members, with seven doing alternate nights - they were simply magnificent from beginning to end and just showed that the future generation of shows at the Westgate Street venue is in very good hands.
As for the villians of the piece – in the form of sneering snooty butler, Mr Grumble, played by Peter Baker, and Queen Lucretia, played by Beth Tuckey – both we perfect boo fodder.
The former was a great foil for the latter, with his detest for most things Buryland (where the story was set) mixed with his devotion to his queen made him a flawless right-hand man.
As for the queen, she just commanded the stage with wickedness every time she was on it and was a great nemesis for the fairest of them all.
Both Grumble and the queen seemed to really enjoy taking all the boos and hisses from the crowd as a recognition of their great performances.
But for Ellie and I, our collective favourite was the second dame of the night.
Craig Painting’s castle cleaner with a catchphrase, Dusty Crevice, was just everything and more you would want from that comical role.
It was a role far from playing the Sherriff of Nottingham in last year’s production of Robin Hood at this theatre, but Craig just absolutely smashed this part too.
In the final part of the venue director’s speech, he said: “Pantomime is all about joy, ultimately what we are all here for is to sit in our seat and feel the joy of the Christmas season.”
With jibes about Stowmarket and Ipswich, references to films such as The Italian Job and Dirty Harry, jokes for adults as well as the children, audience interaction and music for the songs you will definitely recognise – this perfect panto definitely provided that festive joy not just for Ellie and I but I’m sure it will for all this panto season at the Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds.