Michael Fletcher as The Huntsman has been frozen by Lindzi Germain’s Wicked Witch in The Scouse Snow White. The latter thrusts her not inconsiderable bosoms into this eyeline and jiggles them, in an effort to make him corpse. When Fletcher manages to remain straight-faced she takes his left hand and places it on her right breast. Fletcher doesn’t miss a beat, withdraws it – and places his right hand on Germain’s left breast. She cracks up, looks at the crowd and shrugs: “I’ll take what I can get.” Still naughty, still lovable, still hilarious: The Royal Court’s Not-For-Kids pantomime is back.
The Scouse Snow White has many of the usual familiar faces present and correct and treads a familiar path but it’s worth pointing out that these annual affairs have evolved significantly from being enjoyable, if rather rough, productions to being as finely-honed as the rock’n’roll panto up the road at the Everyman. Some nights were sold out this Summer; this year’s ticket sales are outstripping 2018.
It’s not by accident – and it can’t simply be put down tho some sozzled Scousers having a knees-up. Kevin Fearon’s script may be a jigsaw of previous instalments but it takes skill to take pantos, give them a Liverpool-flavoured kick up the arse and still pull it off. It rattles along, with recurring gags and inspired daftness, though a puppet Nana and intermittent appearances from Mayor Joe Hardupson (an inspired turn from Keddy Sutton as a fatly-veiled Joe Anderson) don’t quite come off.
The cast and crew have honed their art – but perhaps more importantly they clearly love what they do. It’s infectious, but it must take a huge investment of time, energy and craft.
Drew Schofield narrates the action in a role that might have seen him wasted. But his vignettes of Stan-Laurel-cum-Spike-Milligan shtick allow him to cast his frequent asides to the audience more naturally.
Michael Fletcher is your hero as a slightly hapless woodcutter, getting plenty of his laughs in a typically straight role and belting out the heartbreakers. “It’s cheesy, innit?” he asks the crowd, a line or two into the latest ballad.
Nevermind scene-stealers, this is a cast of show-stealers.
His brother Stephen takes the unlikely role of a Vampire Christmas Killer, but of course it’s brilliantly pitched as Liberace, with something of the Frying Tonight campery of Carry On… horror. Germain doubles up as a foul-mouthed wicked witch and mirror on the wall (also foul-mouthed).
Sutton is always great value and even Hayley Sheen gets to show off her comedy chops when she’s struck down with an apple that turns her Manc – horror or horrors. Nevermind scene-stealers, this is a cast of show-stealers.
Where once it seemed inconceivable that the Everyman’s festive offering wouldn’t feature Keast & Tucker in the their irresistible double act, now Christmas just wouldn’t be Christmas without Germain, Schofield, Sutton and The Fletchers.
The Scouse Snow White
Royal Court Theatre
Until 18 January
Pictures: Activate Digital