Durham Gala’s Snow White panto dwarfs the opposition

Lauren Waine as Snow White
Lauren Waine as Snow White

Snow White, Durham Gala Theatre until January 5

North East lads Paul Hartley and Neil Armstrong are old hands at running the Gala panto these days, with Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs their fourth consecutive production.

Lauren Waine and Jacob Anderton

Lauren Waine and Jacob Anderton

And it shows - this year’s script isn’t afraid to take numerous liberties with the classic story, reimagining Snow White as the orphaned rightful Queen of Fairyhill (see what they did there?), deposed by the evil Rupert Von Rottenchops.

As usual, Armstrong’s performance contains more premium ham than a Sainsbury’s deli counter and he clearly revels in being the hate figure for the audience, leaving no piece of scenery unchewed in his role as the thoroughly ungentlemanly Rottenchops.

Hartley, of course, is an old hand at working an audience and has the crowd in the palm of his hand from the moment he first appears as Chester the Jester.

He and Paul Dunn, as Snow White’s adoptive mum Dame Dolly Doodle, are clearly having a ball, bouncing off each other and bringing real physical skill to a scene in the dwarfs’ diamond/custard mine (guess which of the two they strike).

Neil Armstrong, Pip Chamberlin and Paul Hartley

Neil Armstrong, Pip Chamberlin and Paul Hartley

North East-born Lauren Waine was a highlight of last year’s production of Robinson Crusoe and is this year promoted to the title role (well, one eighth of it, anyway).

She repays Hartley and Armstrong’s faith, proving more than capable of carrying the show, while Sarah Boulter, as Miranda the Mirror, turns in a spirited performance and proves she can handle a tune as well as more than adequately cut a rug.

The only two of the main cast who struggle to make much of an impression are Jacob Anderton and Pip Chamberlin, as Will the Woodsman and Corporal Crosby respectively, and this clearly owes more to them being stuck with somewhat thankless and underwritten roles than any lack of ability or, indeed, effort.

There’s fine support from the dancers and the youngsters who make up the other seven eighths of the title and the house band is spot-on.

The production is as glossy and professional as ever from the Gala and all in all, it’s another winner from Armstrong and Hartley.

Roll on next year.