This is certainly up there as one of the top ten performances I’ve seen this year – but, seeing as it is 2020, make of that what you will!
I am personally not a lover of cynicism or pessimism. Which is why when I say what follows I don’t want it to be construed as critical of all online performances and, most importantly, not critical of the truly amazing efforts that people – the King’s Head Theatre included – are going to to ensure that we get our theatre fix from home this year. Unfortunately, however, Snow White in the Seven Months of Lockdown is yet to master this transition to online entertainment and the panto is, to summarise, somewhat lacklustre.
Having encountered technical issues whilst watching the show, I had to wait for 24 hours whilst the theatre worked to resolve the problem. This in itself is not a huge issue but what I think is most telling is that during this wait I wasn’t itching to resume the viewing… not in the slightest. As a general rule, a streamed performance should be like a good book only, in this case, I easily put Snow White in the Seven Months of Lockdown down and really could wait to pick it back up again.
I was left wondering why this was the case and I believe it to be the use of the coronavirus theme. It seems apparent to me that all the material has been taken from social media e.g. Twitter and Covid memes – humour that I imagine myself and many others have had rammed down their throats since March. Whilst this may have been funny (ish) in the beginning, after ten months the punchline becomes predictable and weak. As a result, Snow White in the Seven Months of Lockdown lacks comedic originality and is crucially missing that storyline hook that is so essential when watching performances from home.
That being said, the talent of the cast cannot be faulted. Jennie Jacobs in particular (the wicked queen) is a standout act and may possibly have the best evil laugh of any pantomime villain in history. Matthew Kellett (the dwarves) also shines brightly in his multitude of characters; his fluid adaptability and ability to create such vividly unique personas is truly amazing. As an entire cast, they all gel remarkably well and are all particularly impressive during any and all singing numbers. It is simply a shame that the story doesn’t match up to their compelling performances.
Sadly, a good performance relies on three parts – the tech, the cast and the story itself. The cast are brilliant and even the tech, in its filming, is very neatly done. Having said that, the filming does not translate to what the audience receives. Whilst the interactive features are a fun alternative to audience shouts-outs (a crucial characteristic of the panto), the disjointed scenes and chopped up structure really jars the flow. The joy of streaming is that you don’t expect to have that half a minute of scenery shifting between scenes. But, for some reason, that pause effect is amplified here and gets rather testing over time.
As family entertainment, Snow White in the Seven Months of Lockdown certainly hits the cheese and cringe factor that is of course pantomime law and, with a separate adult option, there is entertainment for everyone. Unfortunately, a Covid panto is not something I want to be watching but hats off to the whole crew for keeping this festive tradition alive. Here’s hoping the pantos will be back up and running next year so as to avoid a sequel: Snow White in the Twenty-Two Months of Lockdown!
- By John Savournin and David Eaton
- Directed by John Savournin
- Music and lyrics by David Eaton
- Cast includes: Emily Cairns, Meriel Cunningham, Jennie Jacobs, Matthew Kellett, John Savournin, Marcus Fraser, Mark Gatiss and Ian Hallard.
- King's Head Theatre - home of the fringe in London!
- Available to stream on demand from 14th-31st December 2020
- Time: Approx. 60mins