Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs/Malvern Theatres

NOT just a case of curtain calls, it was perhaps also a case of destiny calling for the young actor playing Snow White in this year’s Malvern pantomime.

For opportunity has quite obviously knocked twice for Francesca McKean. At the age of eight, she performed in her very first panto as a dwarf in her home town’s production of Snow White… and now, 14 years on, she’s making her graduate debut in the title role of a truly fabulous festive feast of fun and frolics.

And what a Christmas cracker of a performance from a young professional who’s not long out of stage school… the ultimate panto heroine, only the hardest of hearts could fail to melt when her achingly tragic voice rattles the rafters and shakes the chandeliers.

But that’s as it should be, for she’s got Su Pollard as the Wicked Queen to contend with, a battleship of a baddie who steams out of the murk and mists with all guns blasting.

Mark my words, there’s absolutely no hint of Ho-de-Ho about this former Hi-de-Hi star as she swats away those boos and hisses while simultaneously stirring her wicked potions and tending that poisonous apple orchard.

Meanwhile, despite all the dastardly doings, Mark James as Muddles keeps the cauldron boiling with non-stop slapstick, the jokes flying thicker than the dame’s corset layers.

And talking of the good ‘lady’, there’s nothing particularly meek and mild about Philip Meeks, who takes the Dolly role to fresh heights, all aided by a succession of wigs and hairpieces which are so tall that they quite probably present a danger to low-flying jets.

But of course, no such perils are posed by the dwarfs, who bring great energy to Sarah Redmond’s brisk producing style, amply aided by all-action choreography and slick musical routines.

No Snow White production would be complete without a heart-throb prince, and Aidan Banyard fills those regulation boots and tights as if he’s been poured into them.

A cross between a 1970s rock god and a 1670s musketeer, Banyard glides across the stage with a desperately dashing elegance that is only matched by a very impressive singing voice.

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs runs until January 6 and is yet another Worcestershire panto that no one should miss this festive season.

John Phillpott