While pantomimes at the larger West End venues may tend to get more press, anyone who’s ever visited The King’s Head Theatre for Charles Court Opera’s annual panto, knows that it is a traditional treat not to be missed. But, in 2020 it doesn’t matter how large or small a venue may be, the only option for producing work is online, and Snow White in The Seven Months of Lockdown is this year’s very different offering from The King’s Head Theatre and Charles Court Opera.
Written and directed by John Savournin, Snow White in The Seven Months of Lockdown takes aim at the very pandemic that has forced it to go digital, and rarely misses a shot. The title alone is enough to tell you that this particular pantomime won’t be an escape from Covid, and the last nine months are neatly satirised in little over an hour.
There are two versions of this panto, a family friendly one, or the one I chose to watch, which is the adult version. The jokes are a little ruder, and there’s the odd swear word, but you could probably still comfortably watch with Granny (providing you are in a household bubble of course). Those with children should definitely plump for the family version, and prepare to be enveloped in Charles Court Opera’s unpredictably eccentric fairy tale world.
Snow White in The Seven Months of Lockdown bears very little resemblance to the Snow White we all know and love, this reimagining is an entirely original story, which sees our heroine, who also happens to be Barry White’s widow, living through lockdown with the seven dwarfs that she keeps house for. The arrival of a dashing prince sets hearts a-flutter, but the jealous Wicked Queen is intent on getting Snow White out the picture, but always manages to miss her mark.
Savournin’s writing is witty and well thought out, but leaves enough room for those classic panto gags that keep us coming back year after year. Savournin also plays the role of Snow White, so enjoys some of the best jokes, including whimsical jabs at masks, sanitiser and even Chris Whitty.
No panto, especially Charles Court Opera’s, would be complete without some energetic songs, and there’s plenty of enjoyable numbers here, including a mega-mix style medley that will have you wanting to leap out of your armchair to join in, and in truth there’s nothing stopping you from doing just that.
Audience participation is the life-blood of panto, and even in this digital age, Charles Court Opera have found a way to make that possible. An ingenious system means that at various points you are required to choose what happens next, and the following joke or scene will be entirely dependent on what button you pressed.
The cast seem to be having a ball, Jennie Jacob’s Wicked Queen is the height of camp evil, while Matthew Kellett pulls off quite a feat as the Seven Dwarfs (yes, all of them). Emily Cairns delivers one of the best vocal numbers as The Prince of Pretzel, and although unseen, Mark Gatiss and Ian Hallard are superb as The Men in The Mirror.
As the nation feels a collective pang of loss for pantomime this year, Snow White in The Seven Months of Lockdown is a little burst of fun in a bleak mid-winter. The King’s Head Theatre and Charles Court Opera always go that extra mile with their Christmas production, and they continue that tradition with this professionally shot and cleverly written take on a classic fairy tale.
Snow White in The Seven Months of Lockdown streams from The King’s Head Theatre until 3rd January. Tickets are on sale here.