Footlights Pantomime – The Snow Queen
ADC Theatre, 7.45pm, until Sat 1 Dec
The Footlight’s Panto is always an absolutely necessary end to Michaelmas; guaranteed to be packed with more hilarity and festivity than a reindeer on speed- this is not one to miss. This year, the story of The Snow Queen was the Footlight’s weapon of choice. The cast led us through the snow-sunken world of “Achoo” in the hope of reuniting our young lovers Kay and Gerda – separated in the face of the evil Snow Queen and her plans of world domination.
Clearly, a good deal of consideration had gone into the making of a visual atmosphere; fake snow floated through the theatre, the stage was incessantly chopped and changed and we were even subjected to ridiculous (but funny) flapping birds skewed on sticks. Excellent, too, was the sound and lighting, apart from some infrequent microphone glitches, almost everything was executed smoothly and professionally. The visual effects and brief pyrotechnics only added to the ‘no-expense-spared’ ambience. Further, costumes were flamboyant: coats, dresses and cloaks came in every shade of gaudy and there were more Nordic jumpers on show than a day at the English Faculty.
With many of the most famous Footlights’ faces all working on the one production, it is unsurprising that the humour stems from disparate places. The comedy was chameleonic; it shifted from farce to slapstick to wit to innovation. At times, the jokes were a bit awful, but the good cheap-pun sort of awful that only panto can pull off. Some of its humour was a bit weird, the ‘Macedonian Monologue’ for example, and predictably, the whole production was rammed with innuendo. As with most Footlights productions the humour never quite shakes off the intelligence which produces it; the meta-panto theme particularly exemplified the wit and acumen writers O’Hagen, Levine and Lewis produce in lines such as Gerda’s “I’m far too protagonist to die!”.
Delivery in panto is everything and Powell, Michell and Hamblin are particular masters of the wry impudent glance post-joke which can really crack a cold audience. However, the audience this evening were a welcoming bunch and took to the panto-spirit with ease and enthusiasm eagerly bounding up to respond with the appropriate “They’re behind you!”.
Emma Powell and Jack Mosedale performed with glistening chemistry as the two young ‘platonic’ lovers Gerda and Kay. Powell and Mosedale excelled in the musical numbers harmonising elegantly and supporting those sly humorous asides with comic timing. Singing, throughout, was to a high standard except for a few over-ambitious notes on the part of our Snow Queen Rosa Robson who otherwise sang with the power required of her character.
Harry Michell’s faux-French was perhaps the most entertaining moment of the play; Michell unrelentingly pushes until he wrings the last bursts of laughter out of the joke. Charlotte Hamblin, too, playing the incongruous ‘Fin-Woman’ of Norway, made an incredible narrator: she was funny, compelling and magnetic in her stage presence. I only wish Hamblin had been given a larger role within the production- the potential for her character was one of the few things the pantomime had not pushed to its limits. But with the running time at two and a half hours (including interval) this is already not a low time-commitment evening.
Overall, this was a production which laughed at itself, laughed with each other and laughed at Cambridge. There was a real sense of the actors genuinely interacting, trying to crack each other up and sincerely having a good time about it – Will Attenborough and Alex Mackeith were particularly transparent in this respect. Throughout, the light hearted atmosphere is contagious and the good-will behind the production is almost tangible.