Tag Archives: John Savournin

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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The Nativity Panto

The Nativity Panto

★★★★

King’s Head Theatre

The Nativity Panto

The Nativity Panto

King’s Head Theatre

Reviewed – 3rd December 2019

★★★★

 

“It is a truly wonderful mash-up. Joyful and triumphant.”

 

‘Tis the season to be silly. That’s all you need to know really. I could end the review here, but my editor wouldn’t be too happy. He’d tear it up and tell me to start again. Which is exactly what Charles Court Opera have done with the original Christmas story. Everything you thought you knew about the Nativity is lying crumpled in the wastepaper bin. They call “The Nativity Panto” an ‘adaptation’ of the tale that sparked the festive season. I call it a demolotion. Or deconstruction maybe. And then they lost the blueprint. Undaunted, however, writer John Savournin and composer/lyricist David Eaton have picked up the pieces from their blurred memories and sharp imaginations to recreate a show that is inventive, hilarious, irreverent, magical, surreal and, to use Pythonesque parlance, just downright silly.

Joseph and Mary Christmas live in the North Pole. Joseph is a workaholic toymaker. All Mary wants for Christmas is a baby. A holy holly bush grants her wish and miraculously she is bulging and ready to drop; a fact that Joseph is ingenuously accepting of. Meanwhile the joy-sucking Jack Frost and his sidekick Snowflake threaten to spoil Christmas for everyone. From there the bizarre adventure begins, and the cast and audience have an absolute ball on the journey together. We rapidly stop trying to dodge the Christmas cracker jokes as innuendos crescendo and double-entendres thunder through the dialogue, and we let ourselves be swept along for the joyous ride. Rachel Szmukler’s gingerbread and candy set evolves with the action like clockwork, while Mia Wallden’s inventive and colourful costumes are the frosting on the cake.

Emily Cairns, Meriel Cunningham, Jennie Jacobs, Matthew Kellett and Catrine Kirkman all possess an energy and versatility that lifts the spirits and indelibly etches laughter lines onto even the most poker face that dares enter the auditorium. The beauty of pantomime is that it appeals to all ages with its mix of slapstick and adult humour. It is an artform that requires a high standard of stagecraft and talent, and this company have it by the sleighload. The five cast members deliver a blizzard of characters (you long to be a fly on the wall backstage to witness how they cope with the costume changes). None can be singled out as each performance is outstanding. Not that you can anyway – their flexibility with accents, expressions, impersonation and interpretation defies recognition as they dish up their feast of familiar faces. Characters we know and love but seen here in a completely different light. You never knew that Rudolph’s fear of flying stemmed from deep rooted self-image issues, did you? Or that the Three Kings could tango like there’s no tomorrow.

David Eaton’s music and lyrics feature original compositions and parodies of popular songs. The Spice Girls, A-ha, Barry Manilow and even David Bowie and Freddie Mercury, among others, provide the backing to Eaton’s humorously clever lyrics; interspersed with some quite beautiful song writing that never feels out of context. Eaton himself is on keyboards providing the musical accompaniment, with drummer Dave Jennings, who also adds some finely timed percussive sound effects. The eclecticism of the soundtrack is matched by the many references in the script, both biblical and contemporary, from King Herod to the Lion King. And pretty much everything in between. It is a truly wonderful mash-up. Joyful and triumphant.

Everything you thought you knew about the nativity is torn apart in this wondrous gift of a show, as the true origins are irreverently revealed. But I shall say no more. ‘Tis the season to be silly. That’s all you need to know really.

 

Reviewed by Jonathan Evans

Photography by Bill Knight

 


The Nativity Panto

King’s Head Theatre until 11th January

 

Last ten shows reviewed at this venue:
Vulvarine | ★★★★★ | June 2019
Margot, Dame, The Most Famous Ballerina In The World | ★★★ | July 2019
Mating In Captivity | ★★★★ | July 2019
Oddball | ★★★½ | July 2019
How We Begin | ★★★★ | August 2019
World’s End | ★★★★ | August 2019
Stripped | ★★★★ | September 2019
The Elixir Of Love | ★★★★★ | September 2019
Tickle | ★★★★ | October 2019
Don’t Frighten The Straights | ★★★ | November 2019

 

Click here to see our most recent reviews