It’s been a long time since I’ve attended a pantomime in Perth. In fact, the last time my parents managed to drag me along was probably the early 90’s, as East 17’s Christmas hit ‘Stay Another Day’ was riding high in the charts.
I didn’t care much for East 17, and to be honest, I didn’t care too much for pantomimes either. I thought they were just about the lamest way you could spend an hour and a half. A bunch of God-awful one-liners, some amateurish acting and some hastily cobbled together dance routines. Plus, you were expected to have fun. I was a teenager, I didn’t do fun!
As an adult, my attitude to pantomimes has gradually softened. Over the last 10 years or so, I’ve been lucky enough to catch Perth’s own Andy Gray in panto in Edinburgh three times and I had to gradually admit, that panto’s can actually be pretty funny. Hilarious even. I think this is partly because pantomime has seriously upped its game since the early nineties.
Audiences (children and adults alike) are much more sophisticated than ever before and have so much choice when it comes to entertainment, so the pantomime has had to evolve to survive. Plus, I’m definitely less hard hearted and cynical as an adult than I was as a teenager.
Barrie Hunter’s production of ‘Snow White and the Seven Dames’ at the recently rejuvenated Perth Theatre is a shining example of this. This is the theatre’s creative director, Lu Kemp second pantomime, having reopened Perth Theatre last year with the critically-acclaimed Aladdin. Director Barrie Hunter is much loved locally and as a dame he takes on the role of not just one but seven panto dames taking the place of the more traditional dwarves. Seven panto dames means seven times the cross-dressing, seven-times the puns and seven times the sweeties thrown into the audience! Braw!
Seven times the cross-dressing, seven-times the puns and seven times the sweeties thrown into the audience! Braw!
Dames instead of dwarves is just one of many clever little tweaks and updates that keep this year’s panto interesting and relevant. The many references to modern technology are really witty and don’t feel like they’ve just been shoehorned in.
I particularly liked that Queen B (the evil Queen) is able to carry around her mirror around in the form of an app on her portable device, the ‘iBad’. Also, without giving too much of the story away, this retelling finds Snow White relying less on a prince and more on her friends to get her out of a jam. Which somehow seems a better message for young girls than the old-school prince charming saves the day schtick.
If this all sounds too pc and highbrow, don’t worry, there are fart jokes. Plenty of them. See, the Seven dames don’t just have the same names as their dwarf counterparts, they’ve got brand new monikers brimming with comic potential. Sassy, Cissy, Hissy, Hackett, Gassy, Glacket and Frank. Sassy McFunnylassie does most of the comic heavy lifting. Frank, is quite frankly, quite frank, telling people what she thinks of them directly to their faces. “I never trust a man who wears a flat cap in a non-jaunty fashion”, she opines to the young woodsman played by Kyle Gardiner. Cissy is a cowardly-lion style character and Gassy. Well in her own words Gassy, “probably shouldn’t have had the broccoli pakora for breakfast”.
It's a better message for young girls than the old-school prince charming saves the day schtick.
The fact that the seven dames are played by just two men facilitates the need for some clever quick change. It is also calls for increasingly elaborate explanations of why they are never all onstage at the same time. The dames aren’t the only source of comedy though, Queen B (the ‘b’ stands for beauty) as the villain of the piece has some great running gags including one where she tells people to ‘beat it’ in increasingly inventive ways. Plus, Michael Dylan as the foppish Prince Posh pants of Athol could give Hugh Laurie in Blackadder a run for his money in the ‘nice but dim’ stakes.
All this plus great music and dance numbers too. The young chorus line, sing and dance up a storm backing the stellar cast as they sing funnier versions of hits by Katie Perry, Dolly Parton and Little Mix. Jo and I were particularly impressed with a young dancer called Rubin and we have a quick word with him in the café afterwards and tell him how great he was. Turns out, despite his young age, he is actually a veteran of panto having performed in Aladdin and Dick Whittington the previous two years. We can’t stay long though as we want to make the most of our visit to Perth with a couple of scoops at the newly opened Brewdog, which is just a short walk down Mill Street.
Snow Whitee and the Seven Dames is on until thee 5th January. Book your tickets and see all performance dates and times in our event listing >
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