I write this at the end of the first day of rehearsal for Snow White, this year’s all-singing, all-dancing pantomime at Greenwich Theatre.
Now in our second year working with Anthony Spargo as writer (while still, of course, appearing on stage as villain), Anthony is
already starting to exhibit a trademark style.
It’s easy for anyone who doesn’t regularly attend a panto, or who has been to a show made by the same team year after year, to think that panto is the same everywhere, but actually the balance of music and storytelling, the decision to use original songs or recognised music, the style of comedy and the visual aesthetic can all vary hugely.
One of the things, it seems, that defines a Spargo pantomime script is the density of the comedy.
Jokes come faster than in any show I’ve seen before.
Visual gags jostle for space with puns and physical comedy so that you are never more than a few lines away from the next punchline.
Many pantomimes around the country honour their music hall roots by presenting more of a variety show with songs and comic routines stitched together around a loose narrative, but a Spargo script also preserves something I’ve valued about the Greenwich pantomime for years, and that’s the quality and the heartfelt nature of the storytelling.
The show may be riddled with jokes but our Snow White is a strong heroine who faces real injustice and who the audience will genuinely root for.
Day one of rehearsal is always an exciting moment.
The designer traditionally shares their concept for the set and costumes, other creatives talk about their vision for the show, and the cast read the script aloud – the first time that the writer will have heard their words brought to life.
For us, Emily Bestow has done an amazing job designing an ice palace for the wicked queen, a cottage for the seven dwarfs and a host of unforgettable costumes with just a hint of the 1980s.
Sound designer Liam McDermott is putting together a collection of sound effects, soundscapes and voice recordings to help with everything from atmospheric scene changes to talking puppets.
Lighting designer Henry Slater is giving us ice-cold colour palettes, a cosy cottage and a host of lighting effects.
Alongside all of that, our long-time musical director, Steve Markwick, has worked with Anthony to come up with an amazing soundtrack of popular songs from classic musical theatre to 1980s rock to contemporary pop songs – a soundtrack that really will offer something for all ages.
To say any more would be to give too much away, but I can promise the wicked queen’s comeuppance is destined to be more ambitious than anything our pantomime audiences have ever seen at Greenwich before.
But first, we’ve got a lot of rehearsal to do.
Picture: Rehearsal for Snow White Picture: Greenwich Theatre
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