Snow White without the dwarves: The most bizarre Christmas production you’ll ever see


All photographs credited to Gavin Joynt

The story of Snow White is a classic – it spawned the first ever full-length animated film and is endlessly popular on the pantomime circuit. The details may change, but the key components are always the same: the poisoned apple, the huntsman, the glass coffin and, of course, the seven dwarves. That is, until now.

The Lawrence Batley Theatre’s Snow White may be the first adaptation of the Grimm fairy-tale to throw aside those famous story elements – there aren’t seven actors in the production, let alone seven dwarves. The collaboration of theatre companies Tell Tale Hearts and Pif Paf, this isn’t just a bizarre retelling. It may be the strangest Christmas production you have ever seen.

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For the most part, it works. The show has an entirely unique feel. This is theatre at its most broken down, at its most industrial: the set is a blank stage with a huge piece of scaffolding manipulated to convey each location, from the pithead of a mine to a spinning singing booth. The costume design is equally grimy – in a wonderful touch, Snow White is stumpy and tomboyish, dressed in an off-white jumpsuit and trainers. For lovers of acclaimed theatre oddballs Kneehigh, this will be right up your street.

The story reconstruction also works, though the flashback-within-flashback structure risks being confusing. Instead of seven dwarves, we have a brass band of ex-miners who rescue Snow White and her pet panther from the magic mirror, revealing secrets about Snow White’s past along the way. There’s no doubting the ambition of this production, though its machinery could use a bit of oil. The set changes aren’t quite as seamless as they should be and the comedic banter could use an injection of speed.snowwhite2

All that can be forgiven when such a rich splurge of theatrical inventiveness is on display. Certain moments are genuinely breathtaking, including a stage-filling shadow puppetry sequence and an acrobatic descent on a rope. The magic mirror scene, in which shards of the mirror chase Snow White around the stage, is balletic, beautiful and utterly captivating.

This certainly isn’t your Disney Snow White, nor your pantomime wicked step-mother, but this show is bursting with its own brand of post-industrial punk charm. It has its faults, but when family theatre is this imaginative and daring, it’s near impossible to resist.

Snow White is showing at the Lawrence Batley Theatre in Huddersfield until 27 December. Tickets can be purchased here.