Another year, another round of panto reviews, and another season that the Marlowe Theatre blows its competition out of the water.
It challenges a Tim Vine show for the sheer amount of gags-per-minute and the onstage effects wouldn’t look out of place in a West End supershow.
The legendary ghost bench gag has been given a 21st century update, and the Evil Queen’s magic mirror is as modern as they come. This visual in particular is executed flawlessly. Interactions between live cast and pre-recorded footage can often be clunky and clumsy, but in this show, it’s absolutely seamless.
But the main reason pantomimes are such big business is because of their celebrity casts, and this year the Marlowe has struck gold.
Best-known as EastEnders’ Roxy Mitchell, Rita Simons plays Queen Ivannah and is panto perfection. She sends herself up, doesn’t mind looking daft and – most impressive of all – is a fantastic singer, absolutely smashing a rendition of Sweet Child O’Mine.
Her vocals are matched by Ben Carruthers as Prince Charming. Male leads in pantomimes sometimes suffer in the vocal stakes, but not here. Apparently this is Ben’s first panto – he has a long career ahead if he wants one.
Just like Ben Roddy, who appears again as the Marlowe’s Dame and controls the show from start to finish. Roddy is fast becoming an attraction in his own right; this Dame’s jokes get as close to crossing the line as possible, and the adults in the audience couldn’t be happier. However, the grown-ups will never be happier than the children in the audience, who are expertly marshalled by CBeebies star Mister Maker.
Snow White also boasts some gloriously daft moments that will imprint the show on your memory, even if (somehow) the songs and jokes and cast don’t. A chorus of dwarf Freddie Mercurys, will do that.
Other regional theatres really need to step up their game if they’re going to compete with Canterbury’s annual Christmas cracker.