Seven Dwarves

Nov 13 2014 | By More

✭✭✭✩✩    Inventive retread

The Vault: Wed 12 – Sun 16 Nov 2014

Subverting the Princess myth is common currency in contemporary fairy-story retreads. Subverting the Hero myth is another thing all together – at least to the extent that Charlotte Productions take it at the Vault this week.

Starting with a surprisingly subdued – and decidedly fringe – take on Snow White, this shows the story from the point of view of the Dwarves, members of an itinerant acting company hired to stage it as a play for The Duchess.

Seven Dwarves - the Prince gets busy. Photo Friederike Tabar, Charlotte Productions

Seven Dwarves – the Prince gets busy. Photo: Friederike Tabar

Females all and seven in number (eight if you count the off-stage Sleepy who is only ever referred to) they are practising their piece as a series of tableaux, staged in the hammiest way possible under the direction of Grumpy, while Doc reads a version of the original for context.

It’s all a bit fuzzy round the edges. Blanca Siljedahl is a taciturn, but too quiet, Grumpy and Erin Elkin an ever-eager to please Jumpy, running around setting up the stage, while the others loiter around and generally conform to their names.

There’s plenty of fooling around which will no doubt get sharper over the run. Particularly from Sarah Calmus as a vibrant, constantly punning Happy. The other dwarves take great delight in picking on the bright-eyed Jumpy who takes every request for a left-handed screwdriver at face value.

Director and writer Laura  Witz eventually brings things into focus as they create their first tableau. She plays Bashful who, as Snow White, is receiving the reviving kiss from her prince (the excellent Miriam Wright as Sleazy).

Isn’t kissing dead people wrong?

Which is exactly the right point to begin to question the tale. Isn’t kissing dead people wrong? And how can you tell what perfection in beauty is? Good questions from Jumpy there, if not exactly original, but well worth asking again. Especially in this low-key production which makes room to mash-up styles and genres without ever needing to explain itself.

And then in walks the Prince. Prince Edward, to be precise, and suddenly the stakes rise several notches, as the company don’t so much subvert the hero archetype as eviscerate it and pin its gizzards out in a rose-fringed garden for the ants to play with.

It must be said that Samuel Pashby is perfect in the role of the dim, hunky, selfish dork of a potato that is Prince Edward. You could easily see him waving from the Buckingham Palace balcony.

This prince, however, just runs errands for the Duchess and is engaged to marry her perfectly beautiful daughter, Blanca (further unseen characters). The dwarves, however, are divided about his attractiveness. Sara Shaarawi’s otherwise-sensible Doc swoons over him while Sleazy knows exactly where he is at.

Not that either opinion really matters, as Witz has left herself plenty of time to pick over the entrails of his masculinity. Not only that, but she gets her whole cast – even Pashby and Krisztina Szemerey as the mute dwarf Dopey – to invest strongly in their characters. Which ensures that this ends up being a lot more rounded than would at first appear.

An interesting piece of new writing which, while it turns over familiar themes, breaks through its earnestness to do so in a fresh and entertaining manner.

Running time 1 hour 30 minutes (no interval)
The Vault,  11 Merchant Street, EH1 2QD
Wednesday 12 – Sunday 16 November 2014.
Daily, 7.30pm.
Details on Charlotte Productions’ website:
Tickets from:


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