REVIEW: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Sunderland Empire - Heigh ho, heigh ho, you’ll love this great panto

We’ve been waiting a long time so let’s come straight to the point. The Sunderland Empire’s first pantomime in two years does not disappoint.

In the highly unlikely event of you being unfamiliar with the plot of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, we won’t give anything away.

But it’s a tale of good, evil, love and gloriously bad jokes set, we are reliably told, in Hylton Castle (the heart of a pig used to fool the nasty queen is purchased from Jacky White’s Market).

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There is a very high gag-count, even for a panto. If there’s one you don’t like, don’t worry. There’ll be another six along in literally a minute.

Su Pollard takes centre stage with the cast of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Picture by David Wood.

Sitcom legend Su Pollard stars as the Wicked Queen who, as the name suggests, is thoroughly unpleasant. She revels in the good round booing she receives every time she enters the stage.

Her baddie credentials are revealed immediately in the prologue, which states that she supports Newcastle United (know your audience).

Be honest. Who better to play a pantomime baddie? The audience is in good hands with Ms Pollard who can still belt out a tune too.

The clown of the piece is panto stalwart Tom Whalley as the irrepressible Muddles, who brings a tornado-like energy to the role, not to mention about a million one-liners.

The show received a thumbs-up from our top pantomime critic, Lucy Thompson, eight.

Clare Maynard and Jonathan Carlton bring the requisite charm to Snow White and the Prince, with the production making the most of their vocal talents.

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But the stand-out for this reviewer was drag star Miss Rory, aka Dan Cunningham, as Nurse Rorina, who manages to be charming, somewhat lascivious, slightly intimidating, but above all – very funny. And at all times impeccably and soberly dressed.

All are ably supported by seven dwarfs and some high quality dancing. Also worth a mention are the quite stunning sets, which not every panto can manage.

Without revealing any of the jokes, highlights include an ingenious routine involving well-known high street brands, the inevitable but still funny section where the cast are somehow unable to spot a ghost even though, as a number of the audience pointed out, “He’s behind you!”

A physically demanding Twelve Days of Christmas was another delight; and it’s pleasing to report that my true love gave to me nine Sunderland Echos (although it would have been cheaper by subscription).

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There are a few jokes which, let’s say, were not entirely understandable to younger audience members. Laughing at two in particular, one about Wales, the other about a Metro journey, means that you’re a bad person; but hopefully an adult.

But who cares what the adults think? We sent along panto expert, St Cuthbert’s pupil and also my eight year-old niece, Lucy Thompson.

Lucy initially gave the show 10 out of 10. But she later had a rethink and revised her score to “A hundred out of 10”, which you must admit is a pretty impressive statistic.

Only the most joyless won’t have a good time. In short (no pun intended) Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is all that a panto should be.

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It runs from now until Sunday, January 2 with tickets from £13. Please be aware of covid restrictions.

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