Inside Out Theatre’s second pantomime for relatively news arts venue Websters (located in Glasgow’s Kelvinbridge area) is another self-consciously low-rent production which brilliantly manages to put a modern twist on a classic fairy tale while still delivering all the expected panto-thrills for its younger audience members—a combination of old and new that you arguably can only find on the panto “fringe” away from the city’s bigger, traditional venues.
Yet there’s still a pantomime dame, with resident director Neil Thomas looking as if he fell into a cleaner’s cupboard as Mrs Marmite Muppet
This Snow White lives in Pop Star Pantoland—a world where villainous step-mother, Spella Binding, chooses a decidedly Glaswegian personification of her iPhone’s Siri personal assistant to be her lackey. Later, Snow White is “done for” not with a poisoned apple but a virus downloaded onto an iPad (making you wonder why the producers didn’t try to get some sponsorship from the Apple Store on the city’s Buchanan Street); and that the only way her friends can bring Snow back to life is to “break her passcode” with the touch of true love.
Yet there’s still a pantomime dame, with resident director Neil Thomas looking as if he fell into a cleaner’s cupboard as Mrs Marmite Muppet (and yes, Paul Harper-Swan’s script isn’t afraid to run with how people either love or hate the woman). Joanne McGuinness is precisely the kind of sweet heroine who’s suitable viewing for even people with diabetes, while Lee Reynolds gives the show great energy as Snow’s good-hearted best friend, Molly Muppet (who is seldom seen without one of the show’s few props, a shopping trolley). There’s still a villain to boo—the punk-goth splendour provided by the show’s dance captain Jamie McKillop, deliciously dismissive of “her” audience of “West End Weirdos”. The fact that the cast clearly get along well, at least on stage, is palpable. Then there are plenty of songs to clap and dance along to, arranged and often performed by musical director Alison Rona Cleland (who does sterling work as the show’s Siri-with-attitude). There’s even a wonderfully gratuitous “It’s Behind You!” scene set in nearby Kelvingrove Park, and of course a strong message of how friendship and goodness can make even the worst person see the error of their ways.
Yet what is perhaps most innovative about Harper-Swan’s retelling of the Snow White story here is that there is no reliance on some manly prince to just turn up to save the day at the last moment; indeed, with the exception of two visible members of the Muppet family—both, due to cast limits, played by puppets—all the characters (if not the cast) are female. Presumably, this is the “twist” mentioned in the show’s publicity, but if that’s really the case then it genuinely feels inconsequential—the story works perfectly fine, and there’s no obvious sense of anything being missing. If you’re looking for a panto with a little touch of the fringe, then this is definitely the show for you.