Promenade Productions

The Bacon Theatre, Cheltenham

19th January 2019


    Hold on tight; it’s that time of the year again. Christmas is over, and Promenade Productions have returned to the Bacon Theatre to serve up another round of January jollity in the form of their annual pantomime. This time round it was Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (Digital Edition), which had clearly undergone a 21st century re-invention. The Spock-eared dwarfs now answered to trendy names like Smiley, Snoozy and the intellectually-challenged Dozy, and what’s more, they were all girls capably led by Ella Critchley as the bespectacled and bearded Brainy.

     All present and seasonally correct were a cottageful of upbeat songs, a well-drilled corps of young dancers gliding the through the forest, and some intelligent one-liners from the more educated end of the wit pool, notably The Great Boots Corner and Frozen Gags (and a nod to Brexit), with more heart jokes and shortist barbs than you can shake a pick at.


     A few of the adult roles had also received a refreshing makeover. Merseysider Maggie Preston engagingly re-invented the fairy godmother as the Scouse-accented Fairy Fortune. Equally, Frank Dalton’s very down-to-earth portrayal of wisecracking jester Chuckles prompted plenty of giggles and groans. (Oh, yes it did). Best of all, John Pannett was back! Need I say more? Never one to stand on his dignity, the indefatigable pantomime dame’s portrayal of Snow White’s housemaid Edna Bucket, sorry, Edina Bouquet, once again gave the show its backbone.


      I still love a classy bad guy, though, so all rise for Ceri Holder as the wicked Killer Queen Avarice who exuded an almost Bondian villainy in the role, spitting contempt at anyone within range and milking every last millilitre of audience disdain. Velvet-voiced Jordan Phillpotts invested the droll and exasperated magistrate Justice Quill with considerable gravitas, while Ben Goodman was hilarious as his dim-witted secretary Scribbles, and Francesca Fiorentini oozed sweetness and charm in the title role. Down in the diamond mine, her resurrection resembled an atmospheric scene from Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen, as Time to Say Goodbye re-echoed mournfully round the deep chasms.


     All great fun, with Queen’s I Want To Break Free (to go with Killer Queen earlier) adding some final gloss (My favourite band, yer know), as Samuel Taunton’s eloquent Merlin finally liberated himself from the requisite mirror and the evil Avarice’s captivity. This latest round of post-festive frivolity from director Heather Newman was a musical and visual treat which left me in good heart.


Simon Lewis