Theatre Review: Snow White, Tobacco Factory Theatre, Bristol
Step into the alternative world of director Alex Byrne’s Snow White, where vegan woodland folk can’t count up to seven and mirrors sing the truth to you about your fading looks. A place where there are no dwarfs or glass coffins and the dark Bavarian forest is represented by a few sticks designed by Stefanie Mueller and enhanced by Trui Malten’s lighting.
Creative, distinctive and politically correct this version of the tale has no obvious links to the imagery in popular culture of the Disney version of the folk story popularised by the Brothers Grimm. Instead we have an unreconstructed Tobacco Factory Theatre take on the story of jealousy, rivalry and female hierarchy told in an agreeably stripped down 21st century way.
Those hoping for a pantomime version or a glossy movie style play may be disappointed. Is it too dark or grown up for very young children to take in: perhaps. However the children watching the drama unfold looked transfixed by the protagonist Snow White’s struggle to survive in the forest as she escapes from her delightfully wicked step-mother brought stylishly to life by designer and actor Stefanie Mueller.
The strength of the production lies in its wit and humour, and the ensemble nature of the musicians who transform into the various characters as the story develops. Musical arrangements and composition are inspired and uplifting due to the work of Elliot Davis and Joey Hickman with all the musicians switching musical instruments with deft choreography.
In writer Mike Tweddle and Rina Vergano’s production the anti-hero Snow White (Jodie Davey) rejects the stereotypical version of her titular goodie-goodie domestic slave who whistles while she works. Instead we have someone who doesn’t agree with killing animals for fur and loves vegetables. Is she a bit wet – possibly – but she is a good person – as is her friend the mentally tortured hunter (Abayomi Oniyide) who struggles to obey his order to kill her.
In his notes the director speaks of boundaries, social responsibility and of each generation taking ownership of their world. So rather than just a simple story of good vs evil and female rivalry there are messages about the environment and the ethics of lifestyle. Worthy yes, a bit clunky maybe – but then this isn’t a show filled with stardust and high tech special effects. Humour and music are to the fore which enthralled the audience who gave the cast a standing ovation for the two hour long show.
Joey Hickman, Alex Murdoch and Richard De Winter completed the ensemble cast giving a fresh and amusing take on the magic mirror and those vegan woodland folk who can’t count to seven. It’s a highly entertaining and musical production which connects with the audience and also makes you think.
Snow White is a Tobacco Factory Theatres, New International Encounter and Cambridge Junction co-Production.
It runs to January 19, 2020.
For details visit: tobacofactorytheatres.com or call 0117 902 0344
For more theatre reviews and views from Harry Mottram visit www.harrymottram.co.uk and follow him on Twitter as Harry The Spiv, Facebook, Instagram and You Tube.