The Above The Stag pantos are the stuff of legend and they have a set of Boyz Awards to prove it. This year the gang are tackling Snow White and Dave Cross spoke to director Andrew Beckett to find out what really happens in that cottage in the woods.
Hi Andrew, what made you pick Snow White this year to work the ATS magic on?
Snow White is about as classic as panto gets, and this year that’s what the team wanted. While some times we might look to lesser done stories, such as our 2014 Treasure Island, this year we wanted to celebrate the genre with this iconic tale.
We all know the original, so what’s the story of your version?
Without giving too much away, our story takes us to the almost-forgotten borough of Lumley-By-Gosh, where a young prince, Snow White, lives in fear of the rule of his wicked and vain uncle, Queen Babs. The plot proceeds as expected from there, but with some wonderful twists that I’m afraid you’ll have to come see for yourself.
Can you talk us through the characters and cast?
Regulars to the Above The Stag Panto will recognise some of their favourite faces from previous years, including a returning treasure, Matthew Baldwin, as our Dame. Together with some talented new stars, they will be playing an eclectic mixture of characters, including an undercover journalist and a Welsh hiker.
What can you tell us about the songs in the show?
We are fortunate to have original music every year for our panto, courtesy of the wonderful Jon Bradfield, who also collaborates with Martin Hooper to write the script. We’re looking forward to sharing an eclectic mixture of funny, romantic, and downright weird; and as always, there will be the classic sing-along.
The Above The Stag pantos have become hugely successful over the past few years, how do you keep the show so fresh each year?
It’s always a balancing act between the traditional formula and the desire to create something new. As a director, I like to give the cast the opportunity to mess around with both their characters and the script, until we’re all equally excited. As always, we set out to produce a traditional panto, with gay core characters. We recommend that you don’t bring children.
We live in ‘interesting times’… are subjects like Trump or Brexit just a gift to you?
Ever since my first panto with Above The Stag, we would always include a lighthearted line about Tom Daley. Every year, that is, except for the year he actually came out the closet. By showtime that evening, we’d stopped kicking ourselves and worked it in. Last year, Trump and Brexit featured heavily, but a new year beings new headlines. Even as we write them, today’s jokes become yesterday’s laugh, so the entire company is working to keep the show as up-to-date as possible. Understanding your audience, and the context within the show, allows you to derive humour from the darkest of subjects. And we do live in dark times. An enjoyable part of the rehearsal process is exploring how far we can push our comedy.
What’s your favourite moment in the show this year?
Rehearsals are in full swing, so I’m struggling to pick a single moment that is my favourite. I’ve enjoyed lots of things the audience will never see, such as the range of accents we’ve requested from our fairy, and the laughter we got from the cast on our first read-through. If I had to pick one moment, I’d probably go with the arrival at the dwarves’ cottage.