Young People’s Theatre presents a comic, high-concept re-telling of the Brothers Grimm classic, Snow White. In Greg Banks’ adaptation, two actors portray fourteen characters. Director Aurora Browne (of Baroness Von Sketch) maintains a scrappy, freewheeling, sketch-comedy momentum throughout.
This production features two alternating duos. Introducing the show, Artistic Director Herbie Barnes told us that the other cast (JD Leslie as Snow White and himself as Four) provides a “totally different show.” I imagine the broad strokes remain the same, with personalized improvisational quirks offering unique colours.
The cast I saw at opening was Amanda Cordner (Snow White) and Ken Hall (Four). Why just the two of them? And who is Four anyway? Well, turns out the seven dwarfs have numbers, not names; those names were just a made up part of the fairy tale and they were kind of rude. Regarding what really happened, Snow White and Four are going to set the record straight!
At the top of the show, we are all waiting for the other six dwarfs to arrive. They never do, so it’s up to our intrepid twosome to tell the whole story by themselves. It’s a daunting task and Four is initially reluctant, but he steps up to support his friend.
As you can imagine, this makes for a wacky, whirl-wind spectacle as the two scamper about in madcap antics. There are minimal props, the whimsical immersion is maintained through dynamic physicality and vocal flourishes. They pull out all the stops. There is mime and zany voices and frequent reminders that this is a performance our duo is working together to maintain.
The framing device also allows for a certain looseness of reality. Snow White and Four are emotionally invested in their story, but the vibe is always playful. This conceit also highlights the importance of teamwork and innovation. Not everything goes according to plan and you must sometimes make the best of a frustrating situation.
There’s some gruesome stuff going on—Snow White being lead into the woods and almost killed by the huntsman, the evil queen demanding he bring back her liver and lungs, a wild pig is mutilated and the organs pulled from it. In even the most sombre and scary moments, though, humour abounds.
Cordner’s comic sensibilities are showcased best in her moments as the evil queen and by her turn as the egotistical yet clueless bro prince who shows up to rescue her. Hall excels at goofy, physical schtick. His aw-shucks demeanour makes the broad goofiness so completely guileless.
A lot of the major beats of the familiar story are retained. Snow White doesn’t go with the prince though, deciding she’d rather spend her happily ever after with the friends she has already built relationships with. And though scary things do happen to her, she discovers that life can only be truly lived through vulnerability and exposure. Her plight also indicates the importance of awareness and good judgement in dealings with people.
To allow for a focus on personality and imagination; Brandon Kleiman’s set is minimal yet inviting—tree trunks, a stump and leafy panels overhead. Laura Gardner’s costumes are rustic and folksy. With a quaint, hand-quilted aesthetic, they feel classic yet not tied to any specific culture or period.
The most emotionally potent moment—for me, anyway—occurs early on. When trying to forge a connection to the huntsman who has been ordered to kill her, she asks about his own daughter. Hall’s subtle, heartfelt response makes this moment truly poignant.
Overall, the comedy is broad and consistent. There are no hidden jokes for adults; all the funny is intended to be accessible to the whole audience, including those of the recommended minimum age of six.