Reviewed – 5th December 2019
“a unique experience of entertainment, enlightenment and warmth”
Another year and another Chickenshed Christmas extravaganza! This time, we are thrown into the 1960s; society is tossing aside its coat of conformity, young people are asserting their individuality and music and fashion are colourful, vibrant and defiant. Snow White resents her shallow, affluent life in the Regent’s Park mansion, and the elite parties thrown by her stepmother. A ‘has been’ fashion model, Jane de Villiers is jealous of her for having the looks she, herself, has lost and for the love her banker husband shows for his daughter. To remain ‘the fairest of them all’, she instructs her security guard to kill Snow White. Of course (as we all know the plot) he doesn’t; she flees to the Scottish Highlands where she meets the Magnificent Seven, a commune of outsiders who feel they don’t belong but have found love, friendship and happiness together.
Within the structure of the narrative, writer and director, Lou Stein, with a small student collective, develops 60s themes, shapes strong principal roles and form teams and clans to enable a huge cast to participate, benefit and enjoy. And whether it is the youngest ‘Sixties Swinger’, the smallest ‘Mirror’ or the oldest Sprite’, they do this with intoxicating energy, enthusiasm and commitment. Cara McInanny is a wonderfully down to earth and sympathetic Snow White, her narcissistic stepmother is played with frighteningly malignant nerve by Sarah Connolly and, as the down-trodden husband, Jonny Morton gives a remarkably strong performance. All three sing beautifully with confidence and ease. Nathaniel Leigertwood plays Jason the security guard, with just the right ingenuousness and as Bobby The Buster, Will Laurence leads his mobsters into trouble with great aplomb. A mirror with charisma, Ashley Driver also integrates the signing into the show, along with two of the ‘Seven’, Sarah Jones and Bethany Hamlin, drawing the whole audience into the action. Dave Carey’s varied musical numbers spread across the many genres of that time. Not only reminiscent of the Beatles he also gives us a taste of Pink Floyd, reggae and ‘Hair’, the musical.
The set, by William Fricker, incorporates artistic designs of the decade with the looking-glass motif in a stunning combination of simplicity and practicality – monochrome, geometric patterns and circles and a wall of assorted mirrors which double up as screens for projections of 60s London life. Fricker’s costumes touch on the various styles of the era (including the Dr. Seuss-esque Psychedelic Sprites), devises dazzling mirrors and cleverly keeps Snow White’s colour scheme to the popular blue, yellow and red. The lighting by Andrew Caddies gives an additional layer of richness to the visual brilliance of the production.
There may be some magic formula to juggling the logistics of putting on a show with four casts of 200 but I imagine it comes down to dedication, experience and a lot of hard work. One could perhaps point out the somewhat accelerated ending, that the band occasionally drowns the singing or question where the Psychedelic Sprites really fit into the tale, but it hardly seems relevant. ‘Snow White’ gives everyone the chance to feel part of something while expressing their own potential. For the audience, it is a unique experience of entertainment, enlightenment and warmth.
Reviewed by Joanna Hetherington
Photography by Steve Gregson
Chickenshed Theatre until 11th January
Previously reviewed at this venue: