Tag Archives: Holly Pigott

Snow White in the Seven Months of Lockdown

★★★★

Online

Snow White in the Seven Months of Lockdown

Snow White in the Seven Months of Lockdown

Online via www.kingsheadtheatre.com

Reviewed – 14th December 2020

★★★★

 

“The talent on display longs to break out of the small screen and take to the stage again”

 

“Mirror mirror on the wall…” begins the Wicked Queen in familiar, heightened, camped up, Disney tones. The mirror is cracked and voiced by the inimitable comedy couple Mark Gatiss and Ian Hallard, so any resemblance to the usual Snow-White tale is thrown out of the window for the next hour. The Queen brushes aside the pleasantries about who might be the fairest in the land; she wants to know how best to claw back all that money from furlough that she doled out throughout the year.

And so, the tone is set. But this is more than a mere retelling of Snow White with clever references to Lockdown, as the title might suggest. Last Christmas Charles Court Opera took the Nativity story and turned it completely on its head to joyful and triumphant effect. This year they have been forced to work behind closed doors, but their boundless, chaotic imaginations have not been restrained in the least and again, they have created a unique show dressed up in their distinctive style. It is difficult to continue this review without spoilers. But then again, I could probably describe the plot in detail for you and you’d still be none the wiser.

Snow White is a man in a frock, widow to the late, great King of Soul, Barry White. See what I mean? The Prince of Pretzel (aka Larry) wants to marry Snow White, but his valet Harry reminds him that she is a commoner and therefore beneath him. The Wicked Queen has other plans entirely. The seven dwarves are renamed due to Disney copyright. The poisoned apple is a box of Turkish Delight (or is it a bomb? Or a Pie?). When Larry and Harry meet Gary (the plumber, or could it be the Wicked Queen in disguise…?) things hot up. The jokes and innuendos are the only elements of predictability in this otherwise surreal and riotous romp through Fairyland. There is a family version or an adult version to choose from before you watch, though I suspect there is little difference between the two. A few profanities aside, it is soft-core enough to sit either side of the watershed. The enjoyment and the subversive sense of humour derives from the twists in the Pythonesque narrative, but above all in the performances of the company’s members.

Jennie Jacobs cuts a dusky figure as the Wicked Queen; an inspired cross between Penelope Keith and Cruella de Ville. John Savournin’s Snow White channels David Walliams in drag; but better. Savounin makes the character truly his own with a finely honed, deadpan self-deprecation. Like the rest of the cast, Emily Cairns as the Prince and Meriel Cunningham as the side-kick valet who turns into a toad, trailblaze through the show with expert comic timing and spot-on characterisation. And then there is Matthew Kellett, who has the job of playing the seven dwarves. His versatility borders on insane, especially when he delivers an Elton John pastiche, singing to his own corpse at the funeral of ‘Half Baked’ the dwarf. Indeed, the musical moments stand out. Each member of the cast, along with the chorus, is in fine voice. David Eaton’s lyrics are as inventive and topical as ever, pasted onto parodies that plunder popular culture. The highlight of the show has to be a brilliant ensemble mash up that, within a mere two and a half minutes, packs in The Beatles, A-Ha, Village people, Oasis and ‘Les Misérables’ among others.

The comic references, particularly to the pandemic, never hamper the action, which trundles towards a neat, morally strewn conclusion during which we are advised not to hide the power of “lurve” by Barry White himself (uncannily voiced by Marcus Fraser) from behind an animated cloud. We could almost be in Terry Gilliam territory.

Occasionally, though, the team’s ambitions outstretch them. The interactive elements, whereby we can select an option on the screen to determine the course of the action stall the flow. The teething problems inherent in the technology occasionally set us adrift. But once back on board we are again swept along. It is a shame, though, that we are not witnessing this show live. The talent on display longs to break out of the small screen and take to the stage again. But if this year’s offering is anything to go by, I can’t wait to see what they come up with next Christmas when, surely by then, we’ll all be back in a sold-out auditorium – which is what they deserve.

 

Reviewed by Jonathan Evans

Photography by  Ali Wright

 


 

Snow White in the Seven Months of Lockdown

Available to stream until 31st December from www.kingsheadtheatre.com

 

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Caterpillar – 4 Stars

Caterpillar

Caterpillar

Theatre503

Reviewed – 3rd September 2018

★★★★

“moments of brilliance bounce straight into the laps of the audience”

 


Alison Carr’s intricate and confident drama, exploring all the complexities of being and feeling vulnerable, the restrictive definitions of femininity and womanhood, and feeling trapped by your circumstance, delivers across the board. Its pace escalates as the plot thickens, handled expertly by a strong cast of three, and moments of brilliance bounce straight into the laps of the audience.

We enter to washes of sea sounds, setting the scene of this uniquely English seaside town. Jac Cooper’s sound design is exactly what this production needs – the soundscapes launch Claire’s opening monologue into an optimistic stratosphere, and later underscoring at climaxes of tension immerses the audience in the characters’ distress. Carr cleverly and subtly weaves in the darkness that is revealed more clearly in the second half of the play, with double meanings and seemingly offhand remarks. This is the sign of a writer who cares about discussing people in detail. Beginning with Claire’s end is utterly bittersweet and careful. Later, when her mother Maeve defends her daughter’s character, we believe her words, having seen Claire articulate what she feels like when she is free. This makes the play’s slow twist all the more crushing – Claire’s actions are not so difficult to understand. The hard issues in Caterpillar are never portrayed crassly.

Judith Amsenga delivers a stoic performance as Claire. She disrupts any camaraderie between Maeve and Simon with jarringly harsh remarks, and is relentlessly difficult to like. At times, this was played too extremely – but director Yasmeen Arden’s decision to go too far rather than not far enough is what the piece needs. Simon’s twisted speech about the spotlessness of his deceased ‘girlfriend’ later brings home how necessary it is to have overtly dislikeable, but still wroughtly complex, female characters. It’s a challenge to audiences, who are used to women quietly holding the fort, while other people and things – including their own self esteem and mental health – have the freedom to crumble around them. Maeve, a single parent, and Claire, an unhappy mother, battle one another because they have forever been fighting the war of expectation; of what society wants from them, and says will make them happy.

Tricia Kelly’s emotional range as Maeve is riveting. She cuts through the play with excellent comic timing, which mixes in with her own quiet suffering, as she recovers from a stroke. Kelly holds the stage when on the phone to her son-in-law and grandson, and her intonation and physical flair are entrancing to watch. Maeve pressures herself to keep a clean, lighthearted and welcoming home environment, which she extends to her guest at the b&b. Alan Mahon peels back Simon’s layers to reveal an altogether more sinister core beneath his battered hang-glider. His own low self-esteem, again deftly introduced by Carr in his first conversation with Claire about a reservation mix-up through her front door, causes him to fetishise and idealise women, to seek those who are vulnerable in order to strengthen his own ego. It’s close to the bone, but it’s not unfamiliar. The best scenes occur when Simon plays alongside each of the women. These jousting matches are well-placed in the play, and Arden plots them well in the space.

Holly Pigott’s set and costume design is a harmony of sunny brights and pastels, which beautifully highlights and offsets the stage action. Some needed space is niftily created by way of a further entrance/exit, taking the characters ‘outside’ – both an escape from their claustrophobia, and a reminder of it. Ben Jacobs’ lighting design is sensual and considerate. Lighting the seaside wooden cage around the stage with LEDs is a master touch. Arden has measured and weighed every line and motion of Caterpillar, and when it is at its best, it’s hard to look away. Caterpillar is at once searingly modern and strikingly timeless, a necessary drama for now.

 

Reviewed by Eloïse Poulton

Photography by The Other Richard

 


Caterpillar

Theatre503 until 22nd September

 

Related
Previously reviewed at this venue
Her not Him | ★★★ | January 2018
Br’er Cotton | ★★★★★ | March 2018
Reared | ★★★ | April 2018
Isaac Came Home From the Mountain | ★★★★ | May 2018

 

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