With Christmas Party season upon us there is even more emphasis than usual on our appearances, with shops full of glittery clothes and sparkly make up. This feels, therefore like an exceptionally good time to reconsider the story of Snow White and its deathly obsession with beauty.
The Wrong Crowd has transformed the downstairs studio space of The Oval House Theatre into what first appears to be a jazz bar, with a snappily dressed swing band and lots of royal red and glittery curtains – it’s eye catching and festive. The space soon transforms into a beauty salon run by our Wicked Queen – Aunty Trish (played with epically bonkers menace by the outstanding Anne Odeke). The beauty salon, as can be guessed from the title of the show, forms the drive of this retelling of Snow White; examining our relationship with appearance and how a beautiful face and a beautiful heart are two very different things.
The Wrong Crowd have a track record of making excellent shows for young audiences and this will, without doubt, prove to be the latest in their line of hits. Every element of the show, from Tayo Akinbode’s brilliantly bouncy score to Sally Ferguson’s sensitive lighting design (little lights hidden all over the set and dark, atmospheric scenes where you can still see the expression on the performers’ faces – thank you!) comes together to make a perfectly entertaining and very high quality piece of theatre.
My own favourite moment, without giving too much away, was Snow White’s relationship with the moles (who, in this version, replace the seven dwarves) – the almost sightless creatures provide a perfect counterpoint to the physical-beauty-obsessed evil Aunty Trish. The engaging puppets, directed and made by Rachel Canning, are heartwarming and provided a moment of repose in an otherwise ‘laugh-a-second’ show. It was especially good to see that the audience were given a chance to meet them after the performance as they looked especially ‘stroke-worthy’.
Another standout moment for me was the sequence in which various fairytale characters come to be ‘groomed’ (literally in the case of the Big Bad Wolf) at the salon – the exceptional choreography of this scene by Diane Alison-Mitchell is some of the funnest and funniest I’ve seen recently.
A word on the multi-talented cast who all, with the exception of the pure of heart Kuran Dohil playing Snow White, take on a variety of different characters with ease, as well as playing numerous instruments in the band, led by musical director Sophie Byrne. Particular credit should go to versatile Eloise Secker who evokes the most sympathy I’ve ever felt for a magic mirror and in all her roles brings sparkle and wit, along with a lovely singing voice. Edward Hole as Federico and Matthew Cavendish as the chief mole as well as other characters are equally excellent. As an ensemble the cast appears to be having a lot of fun together and taking genuine care to tell the story.
The script by Mike Akers bounces along with lots of gags, as well as a few quieter moments, and the pace never falters. The take on a well-known story is well refreshed for a contemporary audience and the final message, that a beautiful heart triumphs over a beautiful face, is cleverly pitched without being preachy.
The action bounces along and the true strength of the piece is in its storytelling, and its fun – this is, in no small part, down to the expert direction of Hannah Mulder, who has done an outstanding job on this show.
I have enjoyed previous shows by The Wrong Crowd, and I hope to enjoy many more.
Rachel is a playwright and creative producer specialising in creating work for family audiences.